0040: Experienced Teachers, Used or Abused? Share your story
#edchat #teaching #SOSchat
I spend as much time as I can talking to teachers about there experiences. I’m a firm believer in the power of discourse for transformation. Sometimes the transformation is personal and sometimes it leads to systemic change. Either way, teachers must tell their stories, even if it’s to a journal or a friend.
I’ve grown increasingly concerned by my conversations with experienced teachers over the years. These teachers are full of excellent experience. They know the schools where the teach. They know the communities. Some of them have taught several generations within the community. These teachers have seen principals and policies come and go. Many of them started teaching when teachers pulled around $6000 a year. These are the tried and the true, the gluttons for punishment. They come back year after year. But, I’m not seeing them treated as the master teachers they are. I’m actually starting to see many of them really start to question why they are coming back. These experienced teachers in many places are being abused. I don’t have a statistic, but I’m running into more highly qualified, 25+ years experienced teachers being slapped with impossible improvement plans, and having excessive classroom observations that result in non-constructive criticism of their practice. For many teachers, classrooms are overcrowded and support doesn’t come when needed. Don’t get me wrong, some teachers are tired and burnt out and should retire. And, there are some teachers who don’t do there jobs. Some of them. But, there are so many who are truly professional teachers with advanced degrees, sticking it out in poor schools because they believe every child has a right to a quality education.
My practice has been made better by these “burnt out and beat up” teachers. So why are they being abused? Are they just ineffective old people? Not at all. It seems, and I may be wrong, that these teachers cost too much to employ. It’s an economic decision. I’ve heard it from the mouth a superintendent that you could hire 2 new teachers for the price of an old one. And this is true. But, is it worth throwing the experience away? Is it worth destroying a quality teacher? Money is tight in districts, but don’t abuse your greatest resources. If you’re an abused and disenfranchised teacher, young, old, or in between please share your story.
Anonymity is important. And confidence is priceless. But, silence is deadly. Please share your story with me— here or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please don’t be silent. Teachers should be valued.
0149: Questions on Equality in #Education
#race #class #SOSchat #occupyedu
I am becoming aware, brutally aware, that my experiences in public education are not common. There are people who see public education as a mildly problematic institution that generally does a good job of providing children with a basic education. There are others who find public education more than satisfactory. Children are treated in a humane manner and even allowed to thrive. Some of these children are affluent. Some are not. So I stand corrected in some areas. I’m glad that public education is serving some people a “good lunch” of equality and positive experiences. No doubt teachers work hard no matter the situation. But, there is still a stone unturned. My experience of public education as a teacher, a speaker, even a student.
First, I teach, have taught, attended, and am connected with educators who work in schools that primarily serve people of color, that is, anyone other than white. I think I have arrived at a point that requires questions, rather than attempted answers. Hopefully, those answers will arrive soon. So here goes. Are there schools, districts, and systems that ensure non-white students are treated equally to their cross county/city/neighborhood/any other division counterparts who happen to be white? Perhaps there’s a better way to phrase that question. Are children of color who are poor, illegal, ostracized from mainstream society, valued as much by any institution as other children? If so, where? I hope my experiences are very narrow. I hope the experiences of my peers who share my experiences around the country are narrow as well. But, even still, I am not satisfied. If my experiences were limited only to me, and I am totally disillusioned with a system to the point of being blinded to the good it does, then why are the children I teach less important than someone else’s children? Why are the children I have taught less valuable? Why don’t they receive the resources others receive? Why are they considered criminals the moment they are born, or the moment they enter kindergarten? And this view is not necessarily perpetuated by their teachers. I’ve taught alongside many understanding and frustrated teachers. I’ve taught with deeply committed people. I cannot call this an exception or a rule. I have found groups of teachers around this country that equally see this as a problem. But, to say that all teachers or people understand this would, in fact, be a sweeping generalization. That’s a good thing I suppose. And good for those who don’t understand this. But for those of us who do, what can we do? It’s appalling to know that people are still valued over other people. And they are. It is not possible to apply full blame to any single entity, but there certainly are directions in which we could wander. I hate that I am confused on this issue, and I’m not sure the question “why?” would even begin to answer or unravel the problem. Further, the problem neither begins or ends with public education as an institution; it is a problem, the problem of race, class, and equality, that runs throughout many of our American institutions. These problems certainly aren’t new, and I don’t know how to begin solve them except through dialogues that may lead to a new and revolutionary awareness of people who aren’t treated with equality that they should be. And let me rephrase that. Transformational dialogues must be a part of any shift in power. People who are oppressed, and there are people who are deeply oppressed this United States, but begin to function democratically, they must become a part of the change that affects them. For equality, power must shift. By which means, I dare not speculate. Certainly, this is the “real world” and students must learn to function within certain frameworks. But, what if those frameworks are not actually accessible to everyone? Or maybe just less accessible? What are we to do then? Are we to stay the course of public education and offer general courses in bullshit? Or are we to offer some alternative?
Regarding Freire in PK-12 education, if there is a third world in our backyards, what means does the third world have to access a first world? If there are parallel societies* in the US that function alongside mainstream society, but mostly separate, how is that gap to be bridged? Forcefully? Through dialogue? Mutual transformation? Who knows. I think that should suffice for now, from my vantage. I’m not sure how to go about answering these questions, just as I am unsure about answering them, but they need answering. I can’t foresee answers coming easily.
Please offer corrections to my assumptions and misperceptions.
*Parallel society- those groups and subgroups who live within a society who are not represented by the lawmaking body, but subject to its imposed illegalities and punishments; an underculture. What is to come of these groups of people?
0034: To those who see the faces of the American Third World
#occupy #teaching #inequality #revolution
I visited some friends this weekend who think what I do is quaint. Additionally, they think my worldview is bleak. I view the world as a place that is wrought with injustice and unnecessary poverty. These things were only interesting concepts to my acquaintances. Concepts without faces, except the homeless guy they were approached by when they were walking downtown. And they projected, he should get a job. Do something to better his life. Like they were doing, like by going to school or working harder… The list is endless and my interactions with these people of wealth and blindness is frustrating. A year ago I sat in Sen. Thad Cochran’s plush Washington D.C. office (Mississippi-R) and tried to explain to him that the state of education in Mississippi was dismal. “No,” he said, “we have the greatest education system in the world.” His grandkids go to private school or maybe a white public school. The argument was futile. Just as it was with my friends this weekend.
There are two sides of town, no matter where you are. The rich live here and the poor live here. And then, there’s the ever shrinking middle class, some are becoming more aware, but in my southern locale they work hard to hold on to there conservative ideals and work there hardest to stay separate from the underclass. I ramble to say that the problem that exists within our education system is only a symptom and a part of a national crisis. We still live in separate camps. The third world is at our back door and many of us are able to ignore it. My worldview would certainly be less bleak if I were in a better position to ignore our invisible citizenry, but consciously teaching does not allow that luxury. Until the “other” is humanized in the eyes of the people rich and middle class then there will always be a separation and our problem will continue and grow. People can only be mistreated for so many generations before they rebel. The “them” out numbers the “us”. As the middle class is falling into the “them” they are becoming revolutionary. We’re nearing a tipping point. The people, from our classrooms to the unemployment lines, deserve humanity and equality. Teachers keep fighting the good fight. We’re all more than a number, but our numbers are greater.
0028: Bullshit. Why don’t my kids get what the white kids get?
I’ve taught in predominately black schools. I attended a predominately black high school. As a teacher, I’ve had the privilege to take my black students to events that are reserved mainly for white schools, thus white kids. My students have always been good competitors and even thrive in this foreign environment whether the events were academic or artistic. I’m always shocked back into a brutal reality of on-going segregation and inequality when I am transported from my usual school environment that functions more closely to a prison than a place of learning. Being that the schools where I’ve taught have been in the south, in black communities, they have been poor. Every interviewer with whom I’ve interviewed has been more concerned with my classroom management skills, and shows great concern about my ability to “handle these kids”. I’ve taught in places where order was never expected because the kids were “those kids” or “criminals”. It’s easy to adapt to that setting, or to become numb to it. But, when I stand in a room full of thriving white children and watch my few black children thrive in the framework of the upper middle class white child I have to stop. The difference is not in behavior. It’s in perception. The schools where I have taught and teach are punitive by nature. The children, mostly black, are treated as if they have great potential— to be harsh criminals. They’re expected to misbehave. The schools and classes are concerned with the children staying in line and sitting quietly. They are not trusted. The white kids on the other hand are treated like future leaders. They engage in problem solving activities and hands-on learning. They are trusted with technology, and are allowed to thrive. The teachers I’ve worked with have been eager to help our students thrive, but the system won’t allow for it. We, at the poorer schools, are constantly falling behind where testing is concerned. And, it starts early. Kindergarten quickly becomes a place to prepare for the first grade test. Recess is eliminated. Experiential learning activities are eliminated. This continues all the way through school for my students. They start out in a deficit situation that follows them all the way to graduation, or when they drop out from absolute boredom. They drill and kill where the kids across the tracks discuss and collaborate. My kids sit in schools that look like prisons, run down prisons at that. The across the track kids sit in schools with nice grounds, and colorful classrooms and hallways. They’re being groomed for success. My students are being groomed for prison and welfare. It’s wrong.
My students looked confused this morning when they were shocked back into their prison reality. The field trip was nice, but it was only a field trip. It was only a dream, and that is bullshit.
0026: Cheers to the pissed of teachers trying to work miracles in impossible situations
I’ve hit a wall, I think. I’ve been trying to figure out why I feel the way I do about my teaching practice and I came across a lovely blogpost entitled “Sh!t Arne Says” (http://teacher-anon.blogspot.com/2011/09/sht-arne-says.html?m=1). The following quote was cited:
“We also want you to enjoy so many other enriching experiences that are so important to a complete education. We know you have great music, art, and physical education teachers at your school, and we believe that these subjects are essential for a well-rounded curriculum. And so is recess. We want you to have fun!”
An Open Letter from Secretary Arne Duncan
and Karen Duncan to Their Children
The blogger went on to describe her daily schedule with her kindergartners which looked nothing like the utopia Duncan described. Her daily schedule reflected no time for any activity besides language, literacy, and math. All important, but nothing experiential. I urge you to read her post (link attached above). Her students receive nothing but the basics. And, that’s not fair. The blog post made me comfortable. It reawakened me to my everyday teaching situation over the past five years which has been very similar. I have taught only in extremely high poverty areas where test scores are becoming the most important thing to district and school leaders because they are so low. The kids I have taught have had few experiences outside what Teacher-Anon. refers to as “sit-down-shut-up-listen-and-remember” education. That’s what is enforced by administrators. I’ve been lucky to spend my last two years teaching as a specialized arts teacher. The other years I taught algebra. Teaching in the arts has given me the opportunity to have a class that’s something of a haven, but it’s also given me the opportunity to see what’s really going on in other academic classes (I’m utilized as a literacy coach quite often as that was my graduate focus). And what do I find but “sit-down-shut-up-listen-and-remember” education, which actually has a negative impact on arts classes as they have either been just playgrounds where students run wild, or the kids have never been engaged in focused work so they are completely afraid to participate. I am lucky to get to teach children to engage in their own learning. However, arts should not be the only classes where this type of engagement is permitted. It should be across the board.
My problem is that I know there are kids who receive quality, engaging, and enriching education daily. They just aren’t the kids I’ve taught. They’re generally more affluent children. At least, that’s what I’ve observed. I’m at a breaking point, and I’m torn. I don’t want to abandon ship, but this ship is sailing nowhere. The kids I teach deserve the energy and privilege the kids across the proverbial tracks get. They deserve to be engaged. The people who make the decisions need to visit the classrooms that are bending and collapsing under the pressure of NCLB and other measures. There needs to be a reckoning of the great disparity between the education quality given to the rich and poor. I don’t know how to fix it, but I’d like to help.