Thursday, August 27, 2015

On Keeping Young Teachers

Our school's a relatively good place. I'd argue that most of the administrators aren't even crazy. Yet the maniacal footprint of the reformies is everywhere, and there's no escape for a working teacher. This is brought home to me by a few of the people who've left us this year. And no, I'm not talking about retirees.

I was recently contacted by a teacher who stayed late every night writing lesson plans, not the first such teacher who's contacted me. I remember the last one I knew, who happened to be in my department. Because I'm chapter leader I keep very strange hours and stay late for all sorts of reasons. But this young woman stayed for hours after work each day, plotting out lesson plans in excruciating detail. I could not persuade her to do anything differently, and eventually she left. Perhaps she's a reluctant workaholic. Who knows?

What I keep hearing from teachers in trouble, from teachers not in trouble, from teachers who don't care one way or the other about trouble is that they're tired of being in a fishbowl. They're tired of thinking the boss could walk in at any moment and catch them doing something less than Danielson-worthy. They're tired of being constantly auditioned for a job they already have.

The teacher who just contacted me is taking a job elsewhere, and I often hear from teachers who are considering jobs elsewhere. It's heartbreaking to me because I think this is the best job there is. Don't get me wrong, I hate the new gotcha system as much as anyone. And given this blog's been up over a decade, I probably complain more than just about anyone. But the classroom and the kids inside of it aren't the problem at all. (This notwithstanding, I also know a bunch of other teachers who've left without sharing detail with me.)

Yesterday I heard a young teacher who I'd deemed almost a Renaissance man had left. This guy was conversant in multiple subjects, and had perhaps the most relentlessly positive attitude of any person of my acquaintance. I was certain the kids loved him, because it appeared everyone else did. Last year he surprised me by confiding how unhappy he was under this new system. I was shocked. He was the last person I'd have expected to complain about anything.

To me he's a bellwether of sorts. If a guy like this can't make it in a school like mine, how is any teacher to make it anywhere? Sure there will be a lot of young teachers who persevere and push through, but at what cost? Do we seriously want the people who are to be role models to our children to be constantly walking a tightrope and hoping for the best?

Even now there is a lawsuit to strip us of due process and render us at-will employees. Who the hell is going to speak up when special ed. kids are poorly served if they can then be fired for a bad haircut? Who's going to report safety hazards? Who's gonna bother calling the union about the moldy trailers? And for goodness sake, who's gonna want to take an already crazy job like chapter leader?

A former student of mine just took a teaching job in my school. This is a very, very smart and capable young woman. Will she make it, or will she wither under unreasonable pressure? I hope for the former, but I'd understand the latter.

We really need to make this job one worth having, not only for the teachers who come after us, but also for the kids they'll need to serve. People who believe Campbell Brown represents the children we serve are laboring under a serious misconception, and will need those reformy broomsticks surgically removed from their asses at the earliest possible opportunity. I only hope they have health insurance adequate to the task.
blog comments powered by Disqus