How Low Can You Go?

I think we might have set the bar so low for professionalism that it may now be more appropriately used for a limbo contest. Seriously.

We are currently demo-ing potential new teachers for the few open positions in our school. To those of you non-teachers out there, demo-ing means that a candidate (whose cover letter isn’t riddled with type-os or dripping with an Upper Middle Class Hero Complex) is invited to teach a lesson in one of our classrooms. The lesson is usually a review lesson and doesn’t necessarily have to teach the kids anything. Really, it’s just a vehicle for one to show off their Potential Teaching Fabulousness, or PTF. Ok, so maybe those aren’t the exact words the hiring committee or The Visionary would use, but we’re not asking them, are we?

Last week I had two demos in my room. I actually like having demos in my room because it gives me the opportunity to throw in my two cents. As I’m sure you’ve recognized by now, I’ve been known to have an opinion or two. And I’m not afraid to share them.

Both girls came in totally prepared and professional. They introduced themselves to me, handed over thorough lesson plans, had all their materials ready to go and were wearing cute outfits. Check, check, check and check.

Several other members of the hiring committee joined me in the back of the room as we prepared ourselves to observe these girls’ PTF. Rating sheets were distributed, pens were poised and we were ready to go. Be brilliant!

As the first girl started her lesson, I was immediately distracted by the behavior of my “colleagues.” The Bacon Hunter was (no joke) eating her breakfast which yes, contained copious amounts of bacon. Another colleague was sipping her tea and looking distractedly around my classroom, indicating that no, she was not listening at all. A third colleague began to take notes, but then felt the need to engage in a texting marathon…because of course she had her cell phone and thought that was appropriate during a demo!

I tried to imagine this scene from our candidate’s perspective. Would I be attracted to a school where this is how the teachers’ behaved while there was supposedly learning going on?

The next day, as the next candidate began her lesson, a different group of characters from the hiring came in to observe (read: embarrass the school with their unprofessional shenanigans). That day, however, our candidate was treated to a rare display of Professionalism, seen only in the select conditions. (And by select conditions, I mean early the next morning after a long night of drinking.) Yes, our candidate was able to observe one of our most senior, tenured teachers put his head down and GO TO SLEEP during her lesson. Awesome! I bet we won her over!

The sad thing is, I’m not even sure I have an informed opinion of either girls’ PTF because I was so distracted by the bullshit going on around me. Way to set the bar, friends, way to set the bar.

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  • Well, at least your colleagues are not pretending to be something they aren’t. They’re nothing, if not, straightforward. At least the potential teachers don’t have to wait to find out what they’ve gotten themselves into…

    May 3, 2009 at 2:01 pm
  • Emily does make a good point.

    I don’t know how I would’ve reacted were I one of those potential teachers giving a lesson.

    After the fact, however?

    I have to say, I don’t know if I’d want to work in a school where my ‘potential’ colleagues weren’t even interested enough in my lesson to pay attention.

    Here’s hoping your colleagues didn’t scare away either of those potentially fabulous ladies!

    May 3, 2009 at 2:49 pm
  • I’m in shock. The truth is, those poor women will probably take the job if it is offered because the market stinks. At least they’ll have you.

    May 3, 2009 at 3:45 pm
  • I don’t even have words for this…

    May 3, 2009 at 4:03 pm
  • Ditto Meanwhile I Keep Dancing’s comment. At least in my part of the country, elementary jobs are tough to get – my district, I’ve heard, gets between 150 and 200 applications for every open elementary position. The only thing worse is secondary social studies.

    Hopefully if they are offered and accept jobs, they’ll find the people like you to attach to rather than some of your discourteous colleagues.

    May 3, 2009 at 4:05 pm
  • It’s so typical-incompetent administrators sabotaging any possibility of improving a school. I can’t believe she was eating her breakfast!! And that one who fell asleep… AMAZING! We chastise students (and their parents) when they fall asleep in class. How are you supposed to get good teachers like that? I disagree with a previous comment, I think teachers might not take the job. New York schools always have such huge turnover (it’s 29% at my school and I’d say AT LEAST we have an atmosphere of professionalism), that they are scrambling to get warm bodies in the room. Good teachers get several job offers.

    May 3, 2009 at 4:14 pm
  • I believe it.

    May 3, 2009 at 4:50 pm
  • As a preservice teacher right now thinking about my future plans in a school, that behavior by members of the school would turn me off of the school right away. If the school members observing me can’t even sit through and observe me teach one lesson, I would take that as a sign they wouldn’t be there to support me during my future year as a teacher as well. I can see why you would be embarrased by their behavior.

    May 3, 2009 at 4:54 pm
  • When I was getting my M.Ed., I had to give demos. The seasoned teachers were the ones who talked, graded papers, etc. They were only there to get the salary increase. Look around the room during PD days. Same behavior. If these teachers were observed themselves, they would probably suck! I remember seeing a veteran yelling at a principal because she received a poor evaluation. Happens when you just sit on your ass and think the kids are going to get the material through invisible brain waves!

    May 4, 2009 at 12:12 pm
  • It always amazes me that these people are in a position of authority. How did they ever manage to make it there? And I’m not just talking about your school!

    May 4, 2009 at 2:31 pm
  • @Mary Louise Brooks

    Your comment about PD struck me.

    Learning, at any level needs to be engaging, timely, and worth my time. If, as a teacher, my lesson isn’t that, I fully expect students to be texting, sleeping or eating breakfast.

    Some goes for PD. I’ve spent hours in PD meetings/trainings that I have to attend for my contract/job/subject area. I’ve spent countless hours updating my blog, editing pictures and tweeting because they aren’t engaging, timely or in any way beneficial.

    Teachers and students need to be given items that actually help them learn and aren’t just there for hours.

    I’m not saying that all PD is not good. There is great PD there. If it’s good, then I listen and take notes (probably in my blog to share with the world.)

    Please remember this if you ever lead PD and when you are teaching.

    May 4, 2009 at 3:35 pm
  • I have to say, that were it me giving a lesson, I wouldn’t mind the obvious disinterest. The demo is a hoop. No one likes hoops. Not the people jumping and not the people setting them up. I’d probably assume that my resume would stand for itself. Hoop jumped. Everyone’s happy.

    May 5, 2009 at 1:05 am
  • I agree with Emily — I want to know these things up front. I’m looking for a new teaching job after 8 years in the classroom and I am asking really different questions than I did earlier in my career. I know what I can live with, without, and what will drive me up the wall.

    May 5, 2009 at 1:15 am
  • That’s funny and must have been so awkward for that teacher. I’d hate to be in her situation

    May 5, 2009 at 2:28 am
  • holy moly! What do you even say to that? I hope the texting marathon did not involve any illegal sexting…that would just be too much.

    Did the Sleeper snore or drool? That would only add to the joy.

    Good luck hiring…

    May 5, 2009 at 2:32 am
  • Oh my heavens!!! I clicked over from Jason’s blog. I thought this was one of his teachers!!!! LOL

    I definitely will stalk you!

    May 5, 2009 at 9:30 pm
  • hi,
    you should have gone all ninja on the teachers and then quietly motioned for the girls to continue.

    i have an award for you over on my blog, so come on over to the party!

    May 6, 2009 at 6:39 am
  • Knaus, I have been in the position of leading PD sessions. And I did not sit on my a** and let teachers grade papers or text. I walked around the room and engaged the teachers through the activities I had planned. In my school, I’ve noticed it’s the same teachers who have been teaching for 30 years, think they know it all or are close to retirement. Whenever I’ve gone into their classrooms, they’re usually not good at classroom management, have disorganized classrooms, disruptive students, etc.

    Just like Laura2, I’m looking for a position after 10 years (due to enrollment decline) and have a different perspective on teaching. Plus different questions that I will ask. They can ask all the “What would you do?” questions they want and so can I. It’s a two-way street. I’m interviewing them, too. As snide as that sounds, it’s the truth. If there’s a lack of management, then the staff will be unhappy. After 10 years of decline, I’m ready for a little bit of happiness!

    May 6, 2009 at 11:58 am
  • I wasn’t accusing you of anything. You obviously are a great teacher because you described what good teachers to.

    Also, you are right on with the teachers who do that in training. They usually have a similar problem with their classrooms. Great points.

    May 6, 2009 at 1:15 pm
  • Those behaviors are all too typical.
    I am an ELA teacher and last year I had a class of Advanced ELLs. The school gave the ELL teacher a push in period with me when I had that class.

    I was under the impression that the teacher was supposed to be servicing the students with me…NOOO…he sat in the back of my room while I was teaching and was either texting on his Blackberry or nodding off.

    So much for mandated services.

    May 6, 2009 at 9:11 pm
  • Knaus, when I read your post, I had a flash at my current situation and let ‘er rip as Larry the Cable Guy would say. I’m truly sorry, I didn’t mean to be so negative but it’s true. Kind of sad, isn’t it? Keep on teaching in your rocking way! 🙂

    CherylG, I too am an ELL teacher. I’ve been reduced to teaching for two periods per day, then co-teaching for the rest of the day in 4 classrooms per day. I don’t co-teach but I do whatever the teacher asks me to do regardless of whether they’re an ELL or not (one-on-one tutoring, testing levels, etc.). I don’t mind because I’m not the teacher of record. But I know other ELL teachers who do just what you mentioned. And it annoys me to no end! Their excuse? It’s not my classroom! I can never understand this thinking because it will eventually find you! Wacky!

    May 7, 2009 at 9:40 am
  • It’s just so sad that so many teachers are just a body. It seems that for each amazing teacher in a building there is one poor teaching not really accomplishing anything.

    That said, I’m thankful for Twitter, blogs, and discussions like this for giving me hope, inspiring me and making me a better teacher.


    May 7, 2009 at 11:30 am
  • Mimi. love the PTF acronym, especially in a business fraught with acronyms. We have two of those in our school, also with tongues firmly planted in both cheeks (not an easy thing to do.. try it sometime).
    HQT=Highly Qualified Teacher, a response to a big flap at the beginning of the year whereby we all had to show our certifications yet again to prove we are qualified to do the job we have been doing for years, and TWF=Teach With Fidelity, a mean-spirited slam at an administrators new pet word, “Fidelity”, that has shown up no less than 12 times in her two most recent memo’s to staff.
    I put each in a logo, the first inside a heart and the second in a shamrock, copied it on bootleg paper since we are running low on supplies (surprise!), and distributed it to select staff (those whom I am certain will not rat me out) who are displaying it proudly above their paper-strewn desks.
    Love your site.

    May 7, 2009 at 1:53 pm
  • sadly, it doesn’t stop at the local admin level. as a principal (I loathe to admit that position on this blog), I had people come in from the district and demand to observe classes and then TOOK CALLS ON THEIR CELL PHONES in the middle of the class. Didn’t step out in the hall. Didn’t speak in hushed tones in the back of the room. Didn’t say “good lord, is she breathing?” or anything that connoted life or death emergencies.

    btw, I love your blog.

    May 8, 2009 at 1:33 am
  • Argh…a principal, everyone look busy! Just kidding.

    What is it about respect that some people just don’t get? I don’t understand.

    “Hey, I’m trying to teach here. I don’t talk on my phone and I don’t allow my students to either. Perhaps you could follow that simple rule. Here’s a bathroom pass if you need to go out into the hallway for a minute.”

    May 8, 2009 at 1:43 am
  • I am grateful that I didn’t have to go through this process – OMG! Sounds like a beauty pageant of teachers, and the judges just as “qualified.” Run, new teachers, run!!!!

    May 16, 2009 at 1:57 am
  • surely, you’re making this up? Probably not! LOL!

    But you know what I’ve figured, most teacher have a hard time sitting and being taught. We need to be busy. Every PD I’ve gone to, teachers are texting, surfing the net, taking numerous breaks .. . and thats just the minor list.

    May 31, 2009 at 4:35 am
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    June 20, 2009 at 3:37 am
  • I had my Vice Principal go to sleep during my final evaluation. I did not notice because I was being fabulous and rocking the Area/Perimeter lesson, but one of my sweethearts needed to sharpen her pencil and noticed. She came over and whispered it to me. She asked if she should wake him and tell him to go to the Nurse's office (where kids who CAN'T stay awake get a short nap). I chose not to spoil his nap and when he woke up and looked around, we made eye contact. At least he had the good grace to look ashamed.

    June 20, 2009 at 3:37 am
  • O. M. G. I thought my colleagues were unprofessional for having side conversations during (worthless) professional development days, but this is so much worse. What's that saying about if teachers want to be treated like professionals, we need to act professionally?? And how do these people move up to Admin? Fixing this would fix at least half of what is wrong with the American education system today.

    January 11, 2010 at 12:31 am

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