Saturday, October 15, 2011

Professional Development

I am writing this at 4 in the morning.  I have been rolling options over and over in my head.  I read an article in Oprah magazine about a teacher who quit her job and started raising alpacas.  I can do that!  HOA probably wouldn't be down with that.  I like to write.  Maybe someday I will get published and make millions of dollars like that vampire lady.  Not bloody likely.   I don't know, maybe I should apply at McDonald's.  Meh, too many of my students work there.  Circle K?  They know me there. Couldn't afford a babysitter on that salary.  So, teaching?  Can I hang in there?

But, geeze, I really hate my job.  Really, really hate it.

My teaching story is the same as just about every other teacher out there. I became a teacher because I love working with young adults.  I wanted to open worlds of possibility for them by teaching them about great literature and making them great thinkers.  I wanted to help kids who struggle and  provide opportunities for them to succeed. I wanted to prepare them to be contributing members of society.

This is what my job really is.

1)  A big pile of "No Child Left Behind" bullshit.

We all hear the complaints of too much testing and teaching to the test, but sometimes I don't think the general population knows some of the other fall out generated by the "No Child Left Behind" policies.

Here is a story that is absolutely gut wrenching.  I know someone that teaches for a school somewhere that told me about some student she had.  This little guy lived in the women's shelter with his mom.  Obviously life has not been smooth for him.  My friend noticed that he was barely able to read.  When she went to the higher-ups and ask what she should do, was there any help they could get for this child, the answer was, "no."  His testing scores were so far below the passing mark that if they spent the extra resources helping him, he would still not likely pass.  Resources are dedicated to those students who are "approaching" because if students move from "approaches" to "meets" it will reflect positively on the school's rating.  You don't get points for kids who move from "unable to read and therefor will become a high school drop-out, so sign me up for the state penitentiary, I'm on my way!" " to "literate and now have a glimmer of hope"

Because schools get dinged for things like attendance and students not graduating on time, students get turned away from public schools.  The majority of the students at the charter high school I currently teach at cannot attend the regular high schools.  The schools turn students away if they are credit deficient and not on track to graduate on time.  The student has the option to enroll in the district's alternative school (a.k.a. prison prep),  find another school out of district, or drop-out.

You think teachers getting together and having answer changing parties on state tests is immoral?  It is just the tip of the ice burg when high stakes policies are made by people who have no real comprehension of  what goes on in a classroom.

2) Demands, State Mandates, District Demands, Administration Demands, and I am supposed to do what?  Are you effing kidding me?

Laws that sound good in congresses, voter boxes, political campaigns and even Department of Education boardrooms suck monkey balls when actually applied to educational practices. Here is an example.

I just attended a 3 day workshop of SEI (Sheltered English Immersion) training.  I learned that Prop 203 passed by voters in Arizona states that all children in public schools shall be taught English as rapidly and effectively as possible. Yup, kids should learn English.

The proposition also states English learners shall be educated through SEI during a temporary transition period not intended to exceed one year.  Wait, wha?  You want kids who don't speak English to be proficient in one year?  Um, okay?

So, great idea voters.   How do we implement it?  Two other House Bills are passed which basically led to this:  Students are to have 4 hours per day of Language Education, 1 hour of Oral English, 1 hour of Grammar, 1 hour of Writing and 1 hour of Reading.  Teachers cannot stray from the time allocations.  Teachers must document their time and learning objectives.  Teachers must follow ELP (English Language Proficiency) Standards.  All proper forms will document correctly the implementation of the State and Federal Laws.  Monitors from the Office of English Language Acquisition will make routine visits and monitor data to determine compliance.

Okay, whine, whine, whine. So you have to do a little extra paper work.  It is all for the benefit of the kids anyway.  Well, if you have a SEI teacher and students are removed from the mainstream classes this seems feasible  But what if you only have a handful of ELLs (English Language Learners)?  The ELLs are put on a documented plan showing how the 4 hours will be met in the mainstream classes.  Districts love this because then they don't have to hire a separate SEI teacher.  So now, the regular ed teacher has to incorporate 4 hours of language acquisition for a handful of students at the same time she is teaching 30 other kids.   She also has to document what she is doing in the correct manner including a language objective tied to the ELP standards. This on top of lesson plans aligned to the state standards, making sure standards, objectives, and guiding questions are visible, creating engaging activities that move up Bloom's taxonomy, reviewing test data and creating interventions for low performing students, differentiating instruction to meet the needs of special education and honors students, accommodating special needs, grading papers, lunch duty, before and after school duty, communicating with parents, attending staff meetings. You have 1 hour during your day for prep time.  What is the problem?

All these laws with all their requirements land squarely on the overburdened backs of frazzled, highly caffeinated and overwhelmingly disillusioned teachers. 

Kids are up, more later.


Anna Elledge said...

Something needs to change! You do a great job and actually care about the kids and sometimes, they need that more than anything else.

perkiwindy said...

caripmaSounds like maybe you should quit your day job and start working on finding a way to fix that. Has to start somewhere.

J.B. said...

Sigh. Yeah, I was talking to my mom the other day about my plans to become a midwife and she seemed surprised I wasn't planning to go back to teaching. You have just cemented my plans. Good luck and keep up the good work.