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01 November 2004: The Schools Are Burning (5 of 6)

Then, as it turns out, the only thing the powerless administrators can do is impose upon the teachers the fire-fighting policies imposed on her.

The truth is, I don't know the teachers who ran from their burning school. I don't know the conditions that they have worked under, and I don't know their lives. But thier negligence is frightfully reminiscent of the attitudes of many urban elementary school teachers that I have known.

I have seen two types of teachers run from burning schools. There are those who don't realize the building is on fire. They simply go about their day, teach through the billowing smoke, and walk past the fires on their way to the parking lot. Their responsiblity exists only between A and Z. The second type of teacher who runs from a burning school is the one who believes that the students started the fire, so they are only getting what they deserve. Neither of these teachers see putting out the fire as their responsibility.

02 November 2004: The Schools Are Burning (6 of 6)

Ultimately, while the school is burning, NCLB has created a policy that has policy makers stoking the flames, administrators helplessly watching the school burn, and teachers running for their lives.

And, with all this chaos, it is the students who suffer. While public schools all over the country are undoubtedly feeling the effects of NCLB, it is the students in impoverished urban schools who are dying. Poor instructional practice, institutionalized racism, irrelevant materials and dehumanizing behavior modification strategies effectively trap and kill many students' desire to learn.

Like the tragic fire in India, the results of current educational policies will have a lasting affect on the well-being of local students and families.

03 November 2004: Job Posting: Unreasonable Diligence and Paperwork Required (1 of 5)

Given the current state of education in my state, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that this was the fourth summer that I have spent looking for a job for the fall.

Granted, I have chosen to work in districts with a lot of problems. And, generally districts with a lot of problems tend to create more problems by laying off their teachers when they don’t know what else to do. That’s not actually the problem I want to discuss.

What’s on my mind these days is what it’s like looking, applying for, and landing a teaching job. As far as I can tell, this process reflects two huge difficulties that are benchmarks of public education: slow and inefficient bureaucracy, and the subjective task of finding a quality teacher without the benefit of watching them teach.

04 November 2004: Job Posting: Unreasonable Diligence and Paperwork Required (2 of 5)

So here’s the thing about looking for jobs: They’re not posted.

I understand that districts don’t always know which sites will have openings, and that some small districts may experience very little turnover from year to year. Fine. I still don’t understand why a district wouldn’t list general openings with generic job descriptions, just to attract as many applicants as possible.

As it is, many districts list site-specific job listings, but then process them at the district level. Obviously, the time it takes to communicate openings, interviews, and hirings from the site to the district to the public is far more arduous than it needs to be. Until August comes, and then my experience has been that large districts scramble to fill openings with any warm body before the first day of school. I always fight a deep fear that because my application is not specific to any one position, that it will then be overlooked when the jobs actually do become available.

All I’m saying is, why don’t they anticipate some openings and look for some quality teachers?

05 November 2004: Job Posting: Unreasonable Diligence and Paperwork Required (3 of 5)

Oh, but so much worse than looking for jobs is actually applying for them.

This summer, I filled out six district applications. Each one required between four and eight pages of information, hand written or typed (really? are there even typewriters still functioning outside of mortgage brokers?). They all asked for pretty much the same information: residence, former positions in teaching, former positions not in teaching, education, references. Okay. I get why this is important information. What I don’t get is why this information is somehow less valid on my resume.

And, sincerely, if this is all the information they ask for before they invite someone to an interview, is it any wonder that the quality of teaching around here is so atrocious? What about asking them to describe their practice? “List three strategies you use to help English Language Learners build their vocabulary.” “Describe your classroom procedures for sharpening pencils.” I swear, anyone’s answers to these questions reveal so much more than the number of years teaching at any given site.

I know that even though many unions function this way, experienced teachers are not the same as effective teachers, right? So why do the applications favor experience? Oh, one more thing: why do they need my scores on the standardized tests I have passed? I couldn’t have received my credential without passing them, yet a copy of my credential does not vouch for my having passed them.

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teaching quote of the day

Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.

- Chinese proverb

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