Build It and They Will Come…Or Will They?

Alternative Title – Perhaps You Should Holster That Finger, Mr. Duncan, It’s Loaded.

So, unless there are teachers living under rocks out there (or buried neck deep in test preparation and unnecessary paperwork perhaps) everyone knows about the mass firings in Rhode Island, yes?  (If you need a refresher, I posted about it once or twice – between fits of rage – here, here and here for starters.)  To me, this tragedy signaled the beginning of a very disturbing resurgence of teacher bashing.

Last week, I heard a series of commercials that blame the laziness of teachers for certain states losing out on Race To The Top (Race To The Newest Test?) funding.  No, they didn’t say “laziness” specifically but talk about doing some heavy implying.  This morning, I heard another political commercial that urges voters to “stop listening to teachers” and “do what they know is right.”  Now, I am all on board with parents being involved.  Yes, you know your child better than I do.  But to say that people need to “stop listening to teachers” when we’re talking about SCHOOLS??!?

I mean, is everyone on crack?!

Are we really going to tell TEACHERS that they shouldn’t be listened to when it comes to EDUCATING CHILDREN?  Do we really want to silence the voices of teachers even more? Cuz if people want to go down THAT road, let me tell you, Mrs. Mimi has a real ugly side.  Thems fightin’ words.

So, considering all this recent negativity (If you’re quiet, you can actually hear my spirit breaking! Shhh!), I was surprised to see this article in the Boston Globe.  Basically, they are trying to recruit the top teachers to work in some of the most difficult contexts, hoping that these rock stars can spark a turnaround. (Does the word “turnaround” now sound like a dirty word to you too?)

Um, well first of all, they are SO RIGHT!  Getting our best people on that job IS the way to go HOWEVER with all this “Fire the Teachers”, “Blame the Teachers”, “F the Teachers!” attitude going around, I’m wondering who is going to be up to this task?  Do they really think we are going to line up around the blog saying, “Please, pick me.  Fire me next!  I want to be blamed for the consequences of poverty!  Oooo!  Judge me solely by the scores from a test! Me! Me!”

I’m having a hard time picturing that for some reason.

Will some of the best teachers be attracted to this? Probably.  Because rock star teachers totally kick butt and want what is best for children.  Rock star teachers routinely sacrifice themselves (and their wallets) for their classes.  But in terms of a marketing campaign?  I’m thinking mass teacher firings/rampant teacher bashing doesn’t go hand in hand with recruitment.  I may not have a degree in marketing, but I’m just saying.  (Hours of watching Mad Men has to count for something, right?)

A website to recruit teachers to such underperforming schools in Boston has been created.  It’s called amazingteachers, but perhaps we might want to spread the word to other Powers That Be that we ARE amazing and should be recognized as such.

Like my grandmother always said, you get more flies with sugar.

The article also mentions the stigma that is attached to working at an underperforming school.  I can get with that.  However, some of our hardest working teachers are in those schools.  I was in one of those schools.  And to be in one of those schools as it begins to rise up is truly amazing.  It is a feeling like no other.

For those teachers that will go and take the plunge, you truly are amazing.  To those of you who are too afraid to touch that job with pole what with the recent hate thrown our way?  Can’t say I blame you.

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  • On the one hand… Teachers are ineffective, incompetent and only in it for the money…and are the cause of all the problems in the schools.

    On the other hand… Teachers, come to our failing schools to save our corporate-political butts.

    I don't know why I am shocked by this hypocrisy any more. Do you ever get used to it?

    Children need food, health care, and books. Not new standards and tests — Stephen Krashen

    May 10, 2010 at 11:43 pm
  • I visited Boston last summer. Flew up there. At some point in the flight, the captain came on the loudspeaker to talk about turbulence or something, but I didn't pay attention. I figured — why would I listen to a pilot about turbulence? What do THEY know?

    May 10, 2010 at 11:43 pm
  • Soooo..speaking as a Massachusetts school committee member, let me tell you what's up with this: you know Duncan's fabulous four turnaround models? You know how you had to adopt one to get School Turnaround Grant funding?
    Well, most MA schools went for the "fire the principal" least draconian model (not without some kicking), but Boston's superintendent (Boston has a strong mayor and a school committee that has no power) went for the "fire half the staff" model for several schools….so now they need teachers.
    The website is for the whole state, but how they're going to work this in with teachers' contracts, etc, hasn't been made clear to us.

    May 11, 2010 at 3:23 am
  • Well said. I think more people need to get a firsthand perspective of what it's really like for those of us in the classroom that are actually trying. It's so tough to know that so much of our job is not about what we get to do with our kids in the classroom.

    May 11, 2010 at 12:53 pm
  • My teacher friend and I were laughing cynically the other day about this whole teacher accountability movement, knowing that newer teachers are often given the low-performing kids while senior teachers get the cream of the crop. And yes, I'm in LAUSD, where we just agreed to take a couple of weeks of furlough days so our district would only lay off 4000 people this year instead of 6000. (Can't remember how many thousands were laid off last year.)

    Good thing we think this is actually supposed to be about kids and their needs…

    And thanks for the book reviews–wonderful! I wish we could inject the kids with bibliophilia along with the other vaccinations they get.

    May 11, 2010 at 4:19 pm
  • Hi,

    Followed the link to you from Fuse#8 today, and I feel like making everyone I know read your blog now. I'm a failed teacher (classroom teacher at any rate, I like to think I'm still technically a teacher in the very broadest sense of the word). I absolutely couldn't handle it. The respect I have for those of you who CAN handle it –and not only handle it, but do so awesomely– knows no bounds. I worked in a "bad" district, and my coworkers amazed me with their dedication and skill and even minor successes. I want to explode whenever anyone implies that a failing school is the fault of the teachers.

    Keep up the great work fighting the good fight. Thank you!

    May 11, 2010 at 7:18 pm
  • Unfortunately, with the Boston situation, I'm not even sure who to cheer for.

    I want the students to have a turnaround, but if they do, everyone will simply say, "See? The teachers were at fault."

    If not, they'll sure say, "See? Teachers don't matter. Fire them all!"

    We can't win.

    May 11, 2010 at 10:06 pm
  • The media especially has been hating on teachers like crazy. We are the new scape goats. Its really sad. And the reason we put up with it is because when it comes down to it, we love our students and want to see them succeed. Bill Maher had a really funny new rule about it! Check it out!

    May 11, 2010 at 10:33 pm
  • Sure, I'd want to work at a school where my job depends upon whether another adult can responsibly get their child to school on the day of the test. Forget about coming to school to learn… just make sure they're there on the day of test.

    Oh, wait… I'm doing that now.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:26 am

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