Sshhhhh. If You’re Quiet, I Think You Can Hear My Spirit Breaking…

An Open Letter To Anyone Who Will Listen and Has the Power To Do Something:

My heart is breaking.  Literally breaking.  I have a mountain of data to analyze and write about, a website to develop content for and an article to write this morning and all I can think about is this whole Let’s Fire The Teachers and Only the Teachers business.

Is this really what education has come to?

From my experience in the classroom, it often feels like those of us who are actually doing the work, are teaching the kids are enacting all those ever-changing and sometimes absolutely insane policy mandates are the ones with the least amount of power.

You want us to randomly change our curriculum because there is one that’s newer and trendier?  Done.

Oh wait.  Now, you want us to teach hours upon hours of mind numbing test prep to get ready for the federally mandated tests?  Done.

Hold on, okay.  Now you’re saying you want us switch the curriculum, include hours of test prep and now write it all down into little graphs and checklists so that you can make sure I’m doing what you told me to do at the exact moment you told me to do it?  Well, um, do you want to hear what I think about that?  Because I think that…oh.  No? You don’t want to hear it?  Huh.  I guess I have no choice then.  Done. 

And now, when all of those decisions, all of those changes are not going well, are not producing the numbers that make you say you are politically worth our votes, you fire THE TEACHERS?   And ONLY the teachers?

I just can’t get past this.

I know first hand that there are many teachers out there who suck.  SUCK.  SUCK!  It is both frustrating and exhausting to work with these people.  Because of those suck suck sucky teachers I had to think about ways to pick up their slack in between checking administrative demands off my list while still finding the time to teach in ways that I knew were going to make a difference.

I would never stand up blindly for all teachers.  How many times do I have to say that?  But I never thought we would blindly fire them all either.

Did some of the teachers in Rhode Island suck?  Probably.  Did ALL of them suck?  Probably not.  There were probably a bunch of them like my Super Colleagues and I, that were swimming upstream trying to make something positive happen for children and without a hesitation, they got fired too.
Honestly, they should have just blind folded them all, given them a cigarette and handed them their walking papers.

And this is our solution to failing schools?  No one else wants to admit that perhaps they played a role in all this?  No administrators, federal legislators, policy makers…nobody?  No?  You just want to stand there with the president and Arne Duncan and clap?  Is this the change you were talking about?  I kind of wish you had been more specific then…

As one of my lovely readers (Thanks Maestro) pointed out, it seems as if no one has considered that the larger ramifications of this decision may be to scare teachers and other schools into raising their test scores, whatever the cost may be to the actual education their students are receiving.  And can we blame them?

Is inducing fear really the ‘radical political action’ our federal government wants to endorse?

Why is it so easy to hate us?  To demonize us?  To take the few of us who do suck and generalize that the rest of us do too?  Is it because most of us have just taken it?  Just done what we’re told and then done what we believed in quietly behind closed doors?  Yelled and cried about the ridiculous conditions we have to work with during our lunch hours in private when nobody could hear us?  Is it our fault for staying quiet for so long? 

Well I don’t want to sit quietly anymore.  I don’t want to just roll over and take it.  I don’t want to work in a system which ties our hands and then fires us when they are unhappy with the results their decisions have caused.

I’ve got to think of something we can do. I just don’t know what it is…my hands have been tied for so long.  For awhile, it felt like this blog was enough and now I know we need to do more.

Would you look at that?  A whole post and not one joke, reference to urine or curse word…my spirit really must be broken.  Does anyone know Stella personally and can you have her tell us how she got her groove back?

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  • Right there with you.

    March 2, 2010 at 2:26 pm
  • In times of crisis, we want to lay blame in someone's lap. Unfortunately, the blame in this case is on those closest to the kids… no systemic analysis has been done, and that is what worries me.
    You stated our (teachers) case very well.

    Thank you.

    March 2, 2010 at 3:42 pm
  • You don't have to look as far as Rhode Island to see what is happening close to home.

    March 2, 2010 at 3:42 pm
  • Totally hear ya! Something needs to be done… As I read your words, my head was shakin'.

    March 2, 2010 at 3:42 pm
  • There are people who suck in every single job. Cops? Do we go on witch hunts when crime is up? Do we blame firemen when houses burn down? What about doctors who suck? I bet there are as many as there are teachers. And they actually kill people. We will never totally solve the teachers who suck problem because there are just too many teachers needed. I would bet that by improving conditions and lowering class size and dealing effectively with kids' real needs, even the teachers who suck would suck less. That is about the best we can do because for every batch of teachers who suck and we spend enormous amounts of time and money rooting out will just be replaced pretty much by another batch of teachers who suck.

    This from someone who spend 35 years teaching elementary school in Williamsburg and saw just about every type of teacher there is – and most of them were pretty decent.

    March 2, 2010 at 6:53 pm
  • Thank goodness I'm not alone on this one!! And thank you Liberty Rose – I always want to make my readers proud. I know it's so hard to feel as if you can speak up freely when you are currently in the classroom…

    ednotesonline – Totally. Just totally. I think we could also do something to make this job a little more selective, but that's just me. Either way – people have GOT TO stop blanket hating on teachers.

    March 2, 2010 at 6:56 pm
  • Mimi
    I'm not arguing with trying to make the job more selective. But until we as teachers have some control over that end it will never happen. I saw so many political suck-ups get away with murder because they only had to suck up to the people above. If we were in control at the school level we would never let the crap happen. But note than in every single governance plan teachers never have power. Interesting but I was in schools in Spain – Galicia in a rural area – where teachers and parents – and students had a voice too – elected their principal. And the guy they chose could not be any better.

    March 2, 2010 at 7:23 pm
  • you should read this article by a washington teacher…it's pretty good. it was the topic of our lunch conversation today and was unanimously decided that she says the things we think. Sorry the link is long, i don't know how to insert shorter ones into comments. =(

    If it doesn't work, go to the Washington Education Association site and type Kathy Saxon into the search box. The third article that comes up is her essay.

    March 3, 2010 at 4:08 am
  • I am with you every step of the way! I feel your pain…I feel the pain. This stuff actually makes me so upset, along with comments from Walter Williams, Cynthia Tucker, and more…that I have to pull back for the sake of my blood pressure etc..

    March 3, 2010 at 12:34 pm
  • "Why is it so easy to hate us? To demonize us? To take the few of us who do suck and generalize that the rest of us do too?"

    A failing school is not just a teacher issue, it's a community issue. But the problem that a panicking school board faces is that they can not control many of the factors involved – the student culture, the local economics, the parents… all of that is out of their hands. But the teachers make the perfect scapegoat because we are the one factor they CAN control. By firing the entire staff, they can make it look like they are doing something – anything to give the appearance that they are moving towards a solution.

    To that end they are throwing a wide net and sacrificing the good teachers just to assure everyone that the poor ones are being removed. It's like using a cure that kills off the healthy cells as well as the infected ones.

    What they don't realize is that it makes it so much harder for them to find good talent after pulling something like this. Who wants to work for a district that could drop them at a moments notice, regardless of their ability or conviction?

    March 3, 2010 at 12:34 pm
  • ednotesonline – good point, my friend, good point. Thanks for weighing in.

    christy- am going to that link now – thanks for sending it.

    Maestro- you are KILLING IT with the comments – such good points! I totally agree, not only are we paid with taxpayer money, we are evidently very easily knocked from our fragile place of respect (I'd say pedestal, but I think that's taking it a bit too far…)

    Teacherella –
    1. Clearly I love the Rose Nylund reference in your screen name.
    2. Mini Mimi will appreciate your point about the blood pressure as well – I read some of this stuff with my heart pounding and her kicking up a storm for the teachers.

    March 3, 2010 at 12:41 pm
  • It just gets more and more maddening, doesn't it? I was naive enough to think that a new administration would mean a fresh look at NCLB and its philosophy, with the inevitable result that SOMEONE with some BRAINS would realize it's not working and will never work. But, alas, it looks like that would take too much effort -effort no one up there is willing to put forth. Sigh.

    March 3, 2010 at 3:05 pm
  • Here's something interesting:

    "Central Falls School District – Great Schools – Helping Each Other – Working Together – Making Dreams Into Reality." — from the Central Falls School District Web Site

    March 4, 2010 at 12:53 pm
  • Adding insult to injury:

    What would happen if someone actually dared to reward good teachers in a meaningful way (i.e. something more than just a certificate or nominal pay increase)? I'd like to see great teachers become celebrities the same way that Food Network has made chefs into celebrities. How would that affect the public attitude toward teachers?

    March 4, 2010 at 10:54 pm
  • I so appreciate that you recognize and admit that there are sucky teachers.

    We all know it's true, and I think people think teachers just don't want accountability. That's not it- we just want FAIR accountability. And one test doesn't cut it.

    March 7, 2010 at 8:57 pm

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