She lifted up the computer and slammed it down on the cart. It was quite an impressive feat for somebody so small in stature. “Whoa, what’s going on Sunshine?” I asked, seeing she was obviously upset. “Oh, I don’t know…” she started, (I think holding back a tear); “it’s either being lied to straight to my face or being treated like a child”. I sighed and put my hand on her shoulder. The teacher in front of me wasn’t just one of my best friends at my school but one of the best teachers the school had to offer, as well, and it hurt me to see her so upset. “Okay, okay – take a deep breath and tell me what happened”, I asked. As she started to tell the story I realized she was just the latest domino to fall from a line that started two years ago.
A week before the ‘08-‘09 school year began, I got a call telling me I would be moved from my Trainable Mentally Handicapped (TMH) classroom to a Varying Exceptionality (VE) classroom to teach Science. I wasn’t happy about the move, because (and to be frankly honest) I am not a Science teacher and it’s a subject I don’t particularly enjoy. However, partly since I am a team player but mostly because I wasn’t given a choice, I said “okay”; though, as the conversation came to an end, I did ask to be moved back to TMH if an opening became available.
A few months into the school year, a TMH teacher left and they hired somebody that had been the V.E. Science teacher at a high school just seven miles away. I was frustrated but I reasoned maybe they didn’t want to move me during the school year. Last summer, hearing about another opening in TMH, I lobbied hard to be moved back but instead they went with a woman whose only previous experience had been in a VE classroom. I felt resigned to my fate.
Another year goes by and another opening becomes available, and once again I make it known that I want that position – but, once again they hire somebody else, going with a recent college graduate with no teaching experience. When I complained to a colleague, she pointed out that the whole VE program was transitioning to Inclusion, and, since I had been the VE Science teacher, a colleague proposed, and not unreasonably – so that who else would they have do that, but me.
That, however, is when the dominoes started to fall.
The VE History teacher balked at becoming an Inclusion teacher, and even though he had no TMH experience, requested he be moved there; and for some reason, they said “yes”. Then, just like that, to make room for him they moved the recently-hired TMH teacher to a VE English/Math/Learning Strategies position, even though she has no training in those areas, and she must now get dual certifications along with taking the Teacher in Training program. It’s worse because her being moved there sealed the fate of the person who had held the position for many years and who was universally recognized to have done a good job. She had been forced to transfer by mistake and was actively trying to return. (Numerous teachers throughout the county have “mistakenly” been forced to transfer in the last few weeks).
My friend, who was highly qualified for the History inclusion position and who couldn’t decide whether she hated being lied to or being treated like a child worse, immediately let Administration know, again (as she had done the year before) that she would like the History inclusion position – but, instead, they hired somebody who doesn’t have any experience working with the school’s VE children. Now – he may come in and be a Wunderkind, (God’s Gift to Teaching), but that is beside the point – of which there are several:
First – you take care of your own. Experienced teachers shouldn’t be uprooted and moved around and they should be given first opportunity of what to teach. They know their strengths, weaknesses, and desires. Sure, there are always going to be times when the needs of the school supercedes these things, but every effort to find middle ground should be made.
Second – a school’s paramount job should be to put both teachers and students in positions to succeed. In this line of dominoes, we have several teachers who are now “out of field” – teaching subjects they never did before – while, at the same time, we have teachers who would be better suited being forced into teaching subjects they either don’t know nor have an aptitude or desire to teach.
Third – you follow your own rules. If you need to be highly qualified to work at a school, you don’t fire somebody for not being so and then hire somebody else who is not. You also can’t preach about the importance of certification and then hire people without it.
Finally – schools should practice what they preach. If I want my kids to be polite and respectful, I am polite and respectful. If I want my kids to be organized, I have to be organized. If I want my kids to act fair and care about school, I can’t act in a capricious, rash or random manner. It’s the third day of pre-planning and many teachers still don’t know what they are teaching, nor have they seen class lists. One colleague walks the halls constantly on the brink of tears because after years of dedicated service, they switched the classes she was supposed to teach and banished her to a portable. Another teacher said to me, “Chris, I really think they are trying to make me quit”.
When the dominoes fell and my umpteenth request to return to a TMH classroom was again ignored, I resigned myself to make the best of things, as I am sure my colleagues will. I believe we will all roll up our sleeves and do our best for our children, and I likewise believe we will all have a measure of success – but, at the same time, like they probably do, I can’t but help feeling a little scr*wed.
I know it sounds like I am airing dirty laundry, but people should be excited and enthused about returning to school – but those two feelings seem replaced with confusion and despair. Maybe I am speaking out of turn, but doesn’t somebody have to say “if you put teachers and students in positions where they can be successful, you will have better results than if you don’t” and doesn’t somebody have to mention that teachers aren’t just pawns on a chess board to be moved around and sacrificed? Instead, teachers are the most important resource a school has and they should be made to feel important and valued instead of left wondering if Administration is trying to make them quit…or what they hated more, being lied to or being treated like a child.