A blog designed to facilitate communication about education, teaching, schools, labor issues, social justice, politics and ordinary life. Statements or expressions of opinions herein 'do not' represent the views or official positions of DCPS, American Federation of Teachers, Washington Teachers' Union or its members. Views are my own. Anyone who claims otherwise is violating the spirit and purpose of this blog.
Having grown up in a family with much older grandparents, I always valued the opinions and words of wisdom from my elders. Even though I prided myself in having a mind of my own, I learned early on that wisdom and life experience bring much needed insight. I think some people refer to it as the school of 'hard knocks'.
Several years ago I ran into several younger teachers who overwhelmingly supported WTU's infamous red and green contract proposal for DC teachers mainly due to the hefty salary increases. I couldn't help but realize they didn't even know the half of what they were embarking upon. Little did I think that I would ever be able to convince them about what was happening on our educational landscape. This very blog was born out of my desire to offer another view point to union members like them about how this red and green proposal would strip all of us of long earned tenure and seniority protections and almost always lead to termination. Needless to say, due to elevating this issue, the red and green proposal soon became history.
Much to my surprise I received an email from one of these teachers who is now a second year teacher. Several years ago, she along with her cohorts chastised me on blogs and in person for not supporting Rhee's reform model and the WTU red and green tiered proposal. This teacher's recent correspondence gives new meaning to the colloquialism 'listen to your elders.' I am thankful that she was able to write me, share her story and admit that she made a mistake. I don't believe that I always know what's better, but like my elders before me I have been there, done that and have the t-shirt with my name on it. I am sharing this email from a teacher, who I will call Terry. I believe her email offers insight into what many DC teachers are currently experiencing under Rhee's reform model.
"It’s been a long time since I’ve written on your blog, but I read it faithfully.
It took a long time but I have to say, you and DCPS teachers have been right about so many things. At my school the teachers are very supportive of me, a still-new second-year teacher. I have struggled with writing and teaching effective lessons, managing student behavior, and organizing my classroom. However, I am new, motivated, and teachable. I left a better-paying career to teach. So you would think the administration would value my attitude and willing spirit.
However, the administration heaps criticism on me and has not offered mentoring to me, nor has it ordered coaches to come into my room to model lessons. The administration takes incentives from my students (recess, field trips, computer use, daily prizes) but blames me for having an ineffective behavior plan. Having a master educator observation has been encouraging to me because the difference between my fall and spring observations showed significant progress. However, I am so disillusioned with my administration that I don’t think I even want a post-conference for my last principal observation. The only reason I haven’t broken down psychologically is because of my friendship with God, who sustains me, and because I have seen the administration belittle and humiliate other teachers at the school so I know it’s not all about me. Teachers have walked out (and others have threatened to walk out) of staff meetings. Turnover is high. Teachers are pitted against other teachers during meetings. Teachers on your blog have been saying all along - it’s not so much the teachers as it is the parents and the administration. I once was blind…
I don’t know what my plans are for next school year, but based on my principal’s IMPACT scores, I may not be in DCPS. My heart was really set on helping the most disadvantaged students in DC.
Moving to another school system won’t be so hard for me because of my age and lack of children who depend on my income and health insurance. However, I feel for teachers at my school who are older, sometimes parents, and either leaving DCPS or considering leaving. They have told me that it is really a leap of faith.
I regret, though, having gotten my feet wet in DCPS then moving to the suburbs. The first two years are when teachers make the bulk of their mistakes. There’s a huge learning curve those two years. Now I may have to take all that knowledge gained at the expense of DCPS’ students to the ‘burbs.
I need to find this one teacher I thought was so terrible three years ago and apologize, because now I see.
(the real name of the teacher has been changed to protect her identity)