Sunday, March 7, 2010

Being a pissant

This week has been one of the toughest I've had since I started teaching. Usually the absurd gets in line and comes at you one at a time, but not this time. This whole week has felt like I've been jousting with an army of mental midgets, morons who have no comprehension of what the impact of their antics may be. My spirit right now feels much like the economy, depressed.

Budget cuts are expected in tough financial times, my district being no exception. You can have two kinds of cuts: equitable, or harebrained. The Board of Education, in their infinite wisdom, opted for the latter. Instead of cutting equally, using attrition, and slashing non-educational administrators, they have opted to make our lives much more difficult. Hundreds of teachers, including myself, attended a Board of Education meeting to give our input. They filibustered us for two and a half hours before we could speak. We spoke for two hours, they decided in 5 minutes, with a prepared statement.

On top of pay and benefit cuts, I will now loose a planning period, and replace that with a class. It could be the same course I already teach, or something completely different. Also class size will go up by 1, meaning 5. The number of students I will teach will go up from 150 to over 180. The amount of time I have to plan and grade will decrease by 33%. I will have an average of 8 minutes to spend with every student, every week. I will spend a minimum of 15 hours every week grading essays alone. That is 39 hours a week already. Leaving me one hour to grade everything else, and plan thoughtful and engaging lessons. Of course I will spend more time than that planning. People know teachers work more than 40 hours a week, so they take advantage. Now I'm sure I'll be working 55-60, instead of my usual 50-55. All of this ordained by people who have no history of classroom instruction, or awareness about how a school works. This in addition to making 4x what I make. Unfortunately, next year I will probably be forced to give more worksheets out of necessity for survival. That's not why I or anybody else decided to go into teaching.

On top of this we have state standardized tests this week! Where would we be without those test scores telling us whether our students are advanced, proficient, partially proficient, or unsatisfactory. Definitely couldn't have figured it out based on the work in my classroom. Since all the teachers have been working hard this year, I am sure our scores will go up. Next year, with the scheduling changes, they will go down. Guess who is going to be blamed?

I already see a story line based on local reports of the school board meeting. "Teachers Protest Extra Class," not "Budget Cuts Threaten Quality." The comment section on the stories is indicative of what is to come. Apparently teachers are lazy, make too much, work 40 hours a week, and only take up teaching for the fat check and benefits. Honestly, when I hear people say that, it makes me feel violent. To disparage an entire group of dedicated, overworked people for no reason but anecdotal stories of the few worthless teachers is disingenuous and exceedingly ignorant. But, that is how it will be played. Student success, according to most, and the school board, rests entirely on the teachers.

The coup d'etat this week was the helecopter mom, buying the lies of her son, accusing me of incompetence and going around me to administration in an attempt to get me in trouble. "No I didn't loose his work, he never turned it in. I understand, but it has been 3 weeks. Please could we not challenge each other's professionality? I have been more than understanding." Situations like that make we want to quit. One misunderstanding can get you fired. I had to loose my planning time, sit down with the principal, and get a written confession out of the son. What had I done wrong? Nothing. God forbid we have due dates, standards and expectations. I don't challenge your parenting skills (although, on second thought), don't challenge my teaching.

It's really incredible, on top of all the stupidity this week, it takes very little to put it in perspective. It's not every day you get to be gunned down by an iPod app as a form of compliment, get a fan page that is updated on weekends, or see amazing educational progress. One of the teachers put it best while speaking to the board, "I don't see myself as accountable to the board, not to the principal, not to the community, nor to the parents, or to myself. I am only accountable to the students. Thats why I am here."

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