On Tenure…

teacher-tenureTeacher tenure has made it in to the mass media news again. This time because of some flippant remarks by The View’s Whoopi Goldberg.

Apparently Ms. Goldberg is seriously misinformed about the details of teacher tenure.

By definition, tenure is “status granted to an employee, usually after a probationary period.”

Teachers obtain tenure by a long and difficult observation process. Before they are granted tenure a teacher can be dismissed WITHOUT any due process rights.

What does that mean? As my union leader so bluntly put it when I was a first year teaching making too much noise, “You can be fired because someone doesn’t like the glasses that you are wearing.”

What does that look like? It looks like terror. A new teacher lives in fear for her job. She lives, breathes and sleeps school. It means that many are so riddled by fear that they often leave because of extreme mental stress before they are granted tenure. The burn out rate for a teacher in my district is 3 years.

Burn out is defined as a condition caused by depersonalization, exhaustion and a diminished sense of accomplishment (Schwab et al. 1986). A psychological model of how stress leads to burnout describes it as a syndrome resulting from teachers’ inability to protect themselves against threats to their self esteem and well being (Kyriacou and Sutcliffe 1978).

We lose approximately 50% of new urban teachers in the first 5 years of their careers. 25% will leave the profession in the first years, no matter which area they work in.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the new teachers who are experiencing this overwhelming fear. After a new teacher is tenured they are still subject to scrutiny at least once a year to make sure that they are performing. (Much like non-teaching jobs and yearly reviews.) Previously, these observations and meetings were designed as a collaborative effort. Teachers are all learners and most welcome feedback and new ideas on how to make their class work better.

That’s all changed.

Recent un-researched and frankly discriminatory evaluation practices for teachers are being implemented across the country. This is causing a significant amount of urban and rural teachers to be (by way of bad math and unfounded practices) labeled “ineffective”, therefore compromising their jobs. It has created a culture of fear in education.

What do these fears look like in classrooms? Teachers teaching from scripts, students staring glassy-eyed at the front of the room. Students not understanding and not learning.

In the elmenetary schools, it looks more damaging. Students crying because they can’t read in kindergarten, 6-year-olds without constructive play, inappropriate tasks far above students’ developmental abilities. Hours upon hours of testing students individually while pretty much ignoring the rest of the class.

Does that sound like a class your want you child to attend? No, it doesn’t. You want to see joy in your child when they talk about school. You want to see a teacher that loves her job and inspires your children to learn.

Do you know what creates JOY and LEARNING in classrooms? Teacher tenure.

Teacher tenure affords us the ability to say “I will not teach something that will damage my students intellectually, emotionally, or physically.”

Teacher tenure is what creates magic in classrooms.

It creates a safe zone that protects us from unfounded allegations as well. Talk to a teacher; tenure doesn’t protect bad teachers, it protects all teachers. We can be removed from our positions for even a hint of misconduct. We aren’t even required to be told what we are being investigated for. We are entitled to due process through tenure, because guess what? All kids lie.

They lie to get approval, for their parents, for gang related politics, or because they think they will get in trouble if they tell the truth. They lie because they are children and don’t fully understand cause and effect.

I challenge you to spend 8 hrs a day not only watching, but disciplining 30 kids in a room- or for high school teachers – 100+ kids a day. Keep iPhone addicted teenagers engaged, gang members from recruiting. Keep kids clean, fed, and clothed because their parents can’t afford to.

Compartmentalize rape, child abuse, substance abuse, murder, suicide, drug trafficking, and parents that scream at you because they don’t know what to do with their kid either.

Spend time with special needs children, ADHD children, violent children, and starving children. Get hit, have desks thrown at you, listen to the words “Suck my fucking dick!” and “Lick my pussy!” and “Fuck you, you cunt, you don’t own me.” so many times that you don’t register them anymore.

Then create the magic that is teaching.

When you’re finished, go home, smile, and tell your spouse that you day went well.

We couldn’t do that without tenure. We couldn’t be sure that the time we put our hands up to make sure that we weren’t hit, we wouldn’t lose our job. That calling CPS on a parent could get us fired. That teaching a book that someone decided to not like would jeopardize our career. That hugging a crying child would get us fired for sexual harassment.

Teacher tenure is not the enemy.

The enemy is multi-billion dollar companies making money off of your children. Multi billion dollar companies with BUSINESSMEN figuring out how to squeeze you for the most money with fear mongering and making you believe that if you don’t buy or do x, y, and z then your child will be a “failure” or “unsafe”. I bet The View’s ratings just shot up. Better ratings = more money. It’s not that hard to see through.

The enemy is forgetting that it takes a village, and blaming the teachers when the village has left them all alone.

So tonight look at your own children and, knowing what horrible things lurk in the world, thank whatever gods you believe in that when they go to school you can know that they are safe.

They are safe because their teachers love them, nurture them, and care for them when you can’t.

And if you don’t like the system there is an alternative – quit your job and do mine – homeschool your kids.

Just don’t remove the joy and magic of learning from millions of students’ lives because you think you know what you’re taking about when you bash teacher tenure.

-Kelly

Copyright: ©Kelly LaLonde, and urbanesl, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

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