Enough about me.
Nationally about 27 percent of teachers are chronically absent. In the state of Florida that jumps to 39 percent and I was told that in Duval that number climbs all the way to 51 percent. Over half our of our teachers are considered chronically absent. Here is the thing, when I was told that I replied, it’s that low? Thinking the number would be much higher.
Now I don’t think for a second that this is a symptom of a staff that doesn’t care. I think it is a symptom about how the district is run.
When a teacher feels hopeless, or over worked or marginalized or disrespected or overwhelmed or insert a dozen other feelings that teachers in Duval routinely go through then they are going to miss days and I don’t blame them one bit. They have to sacrifice a day to be able to work ten or fifteen others.
I think it’s also a symptom that Duval has embraced the transient nature of teaching in today’s age. If you only plan to teach for a year or two, then missing a day becomes that much easier, especially since the district doesn’t pay out full price when you sell them back.
I was told as much by the superintendent a while back. In so many words he said people don’t want to teach for a career, they want to do it for a few years and them move along. The causal acceptance of this I believe plays a roll in chronic absenteeism. teachers think, hey is I am just going to do it for a year or two, I might as well use all my days and apparently in some cases and then some.
Then newer teachers have it rough, imagine doing the alternative certification and trying to teach. I can’t. When I did it, it was basically ten two or three paragraph reports that you were capable of doing in a couple afternoons. Now it is a full workload, it’s like a full time semester in college. I get it we want teachers to be prepared but we should want them to return for year two as well.
We should require new teachers to have a few days out of the classroom where they just come to work and observe veteran teachers or give them time to work on lesson plans so they don’t get burned out but instead as often as not they get the hardest classes with the hardest kids. It’s almost like we want them to fail.
Then there is teach for America. Instead of spending millions on recruiting veteran teachers or people who might spend more than just a year or two in the classroom. We spend millions to recruit these college kids, non education majors who with the barest of training say, I’ll give that a try. How many of them are selling hours back at sixty percent after their two years are up? My bet is not many.
When we overwork our young teachers and don’t respect experience that’s a recipe for a 51 percent chronic absenteeism sandwich.
We have a problem with teacher absenteeism which is bad for our kids but it’s the system of overworking and marginalizing teachers as well as devaluing experience that is to blame and that didn’t originate in the classroom, that came from downtown.