Sunday, May 07, 2017

Where Have All the Discontinued Teachers Gone?

Chalkbeat has a piece about tenure this week. Evidently Bill de Blasio grants it a little more freely than his esteemed predecessor. However, it's certainly far from automatic. I know that principals are sometimes pressured not to grant tenure to everyone, and I know that they sometimes defer it so that higher-ups feel they're doing their jobs.

I'll also grant that tenure used to be automatic.  I agree that it ought not to be, but actually half of teachers leave before they hit five years anyway. The fact is this job is a lot more complicated than most people think it is, if you actually care about it, and not everyone can do it. I'm gobstruck when I read idiotic columns in the Times by Nick Kristof claiming that the complicated rules are keeping Merryl Streep and Colin Powell from becoming schoolteachers. Hey, Nick, if they wanted to be schoolteachers, they'd be schoolteachers.

Who wants to be a schoolteacher? Well I do, for one. As a matter of fact I did not receive tenure so easily. That's because I started as an English teacher but could never really find a job teaching English. Someone dumped me in front of an ESL class and I loved it. I was some kind of regular substitute on some weirdo license and I turned down my first regular assignment as an English teacher at Springfield Gardens. I got a job playing guitar in the world's worst Irish wedding band and worked my way through an MA at Queens College plus twelve language credits. Getting tenure probably took me six years.

But it would just happen. No one shook your hand or gave you a certificate. I have no idea when I became tenured. Now, of course, there is an insane evaluation system and I'm being judged on a test only nine of my students are scheduled to take. If they bomb, as they will if they actually take the test, I could be selling pencils on the corner in a few years. But I've had a good run.

Others are not so lucky. It's one thing to delay tenure if a reasonable principal has reasonable doubts. It's quite another to discontinue people and render their teaching licenses useless just for the heck of it. A principal can always be upfront with someone and say, look, if you resign you can look for a job somewhere else. Of course in the Bloomberg era with Leadership Academy cutthroats, and many are still out there, the notion of compassion was something you'd need to look up in a dictionary or bible somewhere. So teachers have been discontinued. I'm sure there were good reasons for some, but I'm personally acquainted with people who were discontinued for enforcing school rules when admin found it inconvenient, or no good reason at all.

This notwithstanding, where do the discontinued teachers go? Well, and you won't be reading this in reformy Chalkbeat, but every single one I know, without exception, is working in a charter school. You know, those places where they send you so you're protected from those horrible public schools with their benefits and lazy teachers who just sit around and complain all day every day. Not only that, but I know teachers who've been suspended after 3020a charges and guess where they made up the missing pay? You guessed it. Charter schools.

OK, now it's entirely possible these are great teachers who were screwed by the system, but it's amusing to me that the charter supporters think we're a bunch of criminals, complain that too few of us are fired, and then when we finally are, they frigging hire us. I'm glad that the charters hire teachers the city is blacklisting.

But blacklisting is a pretty serious thing. It should be reserved for teachers who, say, abuse children. I wouldn't be surprised if there were teachers discontinued for phrasing the aim as a statement rather than a question, or vice-versa. I can assure you people have been discontinued for less.
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