Archive for April, 2011

20
Apr
11

I’m not sure I’ll get over it.

So, a LOT has been happening around here. Luckily, none of the the things I am going to share are life and death matters. My family is healthy and safe.

Two weeks ago today I learned that I had lost my job. To me this was completely unexpected and confusing.

I am a teacher. And a damn good teacher at that. I know that if you follow my blog, you know that I deeply care about my students, quality educational instruction, and the state of education in the US. These are huge passions of mine, particularly the students I know and love.

So two weeks ago, they called me into the main office, I sat down with my principal, I thought possibly to discuss my role as department chair for the upcoming year. But no, they told me I was being let go. It is like all those movies and TV shows that you see in which the person either cries like a baby or goes apeshit. At that moment in time, suspended by shock and injustice, I did neither. I pretty much just sat there as they pulled the rug out from under my professional and personal life.

I got the papers. I read them. They explain nothing to me. Literally.

The papers all say that I was let go because I was least senior in the department in which I teach, science. Not true. I am third to the bottom. So there are two others who were hired after me. That criteria didn’t fit. Confusion.

I also read a segment on  how they made determinations based on trying to cause the “least disruption” to the campus. I mean did they think that removing a department chair and team member who had worked hand in hand with two other teachers for two years straight was the least disruption? I sure don’t. Still more confusion.

And then they told me the dirty little truth that is no where printed on my termination papers or in the district’s policy. They kept coaches. Middle school coaches. Who had not even completed one year of teaching in their life. They kept these coaches because they apparently thought they were more valuable. Even more confusion.

What the hell? What in the world? What are they thinking?

Yes, in that moment I lost my job. But the students also lost a committed teacher who loved them and was sold into the system so deeply that she would have laid down to defend it. And the system apparently has no reason or feelings or forethought, because it determined I was the best loss for the school district. I was the loss.

There are teachers who sleep through classes. Teachers who hate kids. Teachers who are not smart. Teachers who abuse drugs and alcohol. Teachers who scare kids. Teachers who are just there to make a buck. Teachers who are completely incompetent at instructing students. Teachers who are negative. Teachers who are poor role models. The bottom line is, most teachers just make it through the day, hoping they survive the students, and don’t look back.

I am not that teacher. I never will be.

And the system keeps many of those warm bodies that lead classrooms to nowhere, and they decided I was expendable?

I’m sorry, but I am so mad. And sad. And somewhat unable to let it go.

I mean, I am sitting here crying through this whole thing, because of the injustice of it all.

I’ve looked into my legal options.

I’ve looked into filing a formal complaint.

I’ve thought about going to the press.

I’ve talked to lawyers, school board members, parents, teachers, principals, friends, and of course, my family.

And I have been trying to fight this decision.

But recently, I am realizing it is all an uphill battle.

And nothing is going to change.

They are not going to give me my job back.

They may never hire me again.

And I am resigning myself to loss.

I cannot beat the system.

They have more money and lawyers and red tape.

They have the ability to make me something very small, whose professional life was worth throwing out.

I have lost.

But I haven’t lost everything. I haven’t lost the truth, clarity, and dignity that comes from fighting for what you believe in.

I just never realized that I had naively trusted the fact that humans operated out principles, ethics, and intelligence, rather than convenience and impersonality.

Ugh, I’m not sure how long it will take me to get over this.

I wanted to share with you the letter that I wrote to the superintendent and my administrators the day after losing my job. See below.

And I have a lot more to say about the budget cuts in education (that came from the Texas legislature) and the state of public education in Texas and the country overall. I’ll address that more later.

20
Apr
11

letter

This letter accompanies the post above titled “I’m not sure I’ll get over it”

*All names have been changed to protect the individuals identity.

Dear Dr. Smith*

Thank you for your response. I understand how the selections were made.I, as do others, think possibly the selections were rather flawed and did not take into account the true spirit of GHISD*, which I consider academic excellence and promoting positive relationships with students. To be eliminated in a formulaic way without taking into account professional performance, committment to the school and community, and true (without coaching attached) years of professional service, it feels impersonal and hasty.

I know there were many cuts across the district and I empathize with others whose positions were reduced. I know I am not in this alone. But I also know that I am not the one who should be leaving the classroom. It is the wrong decision, regardless of process. I care more about my students than most teachers. My job is not a job, it is a calling. I strive every day to do  my best, truly taking into account the social and emotional needs of each student.

Ask the students I teach, they will testify to that. As will the student’s parents, my colleagues, and my administrators. My true point is this: if GHISD* stands behind academic excellence, why would my position be eliminated? I know for a fact that being a science teacher, I was not the last one hired. I was third in line. And the others were kept because they are coaches. I am an athlete myself, and I would have happily coached had I known that my teaching position was at stake. I know that coaching contracts are separate from teaching contracts. And it seems odd, that at a time when the academic integrity of American students is being called into question, that you would eliminate a teacher who was striving for just that: academic integrity. I understand the shuffling around that would have to take place if you were to eliminate coaching positions, but did anyone think to ask? Did anyone think that maybe you would be losing a fantastic teacher with ten years of experience due to the fact that we wanted to be sure we kept our coaches positions safe. I am appalled and disappointed that this was not taken into consideration. I take issue with the fact that we didn’t take the waiting period between the time we knew the cuts were most likely and now, to ask, research, investigate, and use our imaginations to keep the BEST teachers in the classroom.

Like I said, if you need proof of my professional performance, ask my administrators, they will gladly go through my PDAs with you.

If you need proof of my commitment to bettering myself as an educator, ask the thirty teachers (and SIS’s) who visited my room on peer to peer visits.

Also, consider that the district has put considerable funds into my professional development through CCP, attending NSTA, Co-Teach training, and the B-3 grant*, just to name a few of the causes I am involved in. Did you think of where that money is going?

If you need proof of my commitment to the district, keep in mind my husband and I moved cross country from our jobs to impact the community we both grew up in (RHS*) to make a difference as educators. Consider also the fact that both my children will be enrolled at Robert Walker Elementary* next year (P-K and K) and that I will be active in the PTA and the neighborhood.

If you need proof of my commitment to my school community, consider I was to be science department chair in 2011 – 2012 and that I was working with other teachers to develop more innovative and engaging techniques in the classroom to reach our diverse community of learners.

If you need proof of my commitment to all students look to the fact that I volunteered to teach every special education student in the 8th grade, teaming with another first year teacher to work with each student and their needs, hopefully ensuring future success.

If you need proof of my commitment to my former students, ask them. They will tell you. Ask the students who come back to visit my class or who spot me at a football game or who I see at the grocery store. They are my kids. They know me. They will tell you.

If you need proof of my commitment to my present students ask Juan Lopez, Daniel Williams, Mary Smith, Hillary Wiseman, Robert Maloney, Stephanie Rose, David Ramirez, Anna Martinuez, Maria Rodriguez, Leti Gonzales, Tony Brown, Kelsey Franklin, Mark Harsh, Marcos Escobedo, Ali Waters, and the truth is, I can’t list them all. But these kids know me well as a teacher. They would testify that this decision is the wrong decision.*

If you need proof of my desire to fight for equality, greatness, and for EACH and EVERY student, please carefully consider what I have written. Share it with those who have the mindset of bettering the youth of this country, this district, this community, and this school.

I am not going to stop fighting for what is right. And this is not right. I would not advise my own children any differently and I know you would not advise yours any differently. I stand behind my disagreement with the reduction of my position and the process by which that decision was made.

Thank you for your time.

Respectfully and with intention,

EB*

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” –

Martin Luther King

15
Apr
11

small steps

Small things like this are happening. They must happen. They must happen often and with courage and conviction if we are going to change this broken system.

14
Apr
11

waiting

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

-Martin Luther King

He could have written this for me.

12
Apr
11

Silence

I am silent
Not because I have nothing to say
But because I have too much to say.

06
Apr
11

Pitiful

20110405-092842.jpg
You would think something terrible happened to my quasimoto like daughter.
It was a mosquito that she battled with. And the mosquito apparently won.
Poor thing.

04
Apr
11

with sadness and intention

Today I spend my morning honoring this young man.

It was with sadness that I share his story. (Read here also).

It is not even my story to even share. But beside the guilt like feeling that I am unworthy in sharing, there is a stronger voice within that speaks that I must share.

I have long been drawn into the story of veterans and their struggles while engaged in war and at home. And I knew that there were issues facing this new crop of veterans. But I didn’t realize that someone I knew, who was my brother’s age and also part of my sister in law’s family would be the one.

The one of thousands of soldiers who will take their own life. (see here)

It seems that through some of the research I have done, that there are more casualties of this psychological war than there are the actual wars our soldiers have been fighting. (see here)

Why? And what can we do?

Paul Rieckhoff, the founder and president of IAVA points out some of the issues in the video that I posted titled Why? and What can we do? (see post below)

The young man that I knew was not just a disenfranchised veteran. He was active in several causes including the amazing causes of:

Team Rubicon (Clay was incredibly active with this outstanding organization)

Ride to Recovery

Storm the Hill

Please consider, when donating to charities or tithing for the year, that these causes, and our veterans, are often overlooked. Even veterans who are active, who have supportive and loving families, who want to make the world a better place, they too are often struggling with survivors guilt, or simply the reconciliation of war to civilian life.

Please remember that for many of these men and women their fight does not end when their tour is over.

May God grant you peace, faithful soldier, you have fought a good fight.