Thursday, October 23, 2014

Think of the children!

On the plus side, I’ve lost four pounds.  On the minus side, I’m also losing my will to live.
Stress seems to have stomped on my appetite, because I find I’m either in too much of a hurry, too busy or too stressed to eat much.  Food doesn’t taste that appetizing lately.  Is that a sign of depression?  If so, there’s certainly an upside to it – my pants aren’t tight!  They’re just too loose.

I think my school is moving towards an Animal Farm type of business model.  Put the “smartest” people in charge, even if (or especially if) they have no idea how to teach a class, manage people or run their personal lives.  But put them in charge, and then turn around and dump everything onto the teachers.  Give them more students, less time, less power but require more documentation for every interaction they have with a student.  They’ll work harder for less, because it’s AAAALLLLLL about the kids.

Strange how all the districts are trying to boost salaries.  Come over here, there’s a signing bonus and you’ll start at $70K a year!  I tend to be a money-grubber myself, so I definitely see the appeal.  But believe me, most teachers would happily take less money if they were treated with respect and dignity.  Make the class sizes smaller, hire more teachers and get the hell out of their way or support them – guess what?  Your school starts improving.  Parents are happier.  Students perform better, you know, those kids we’re doing all of this for?  

My school tries the opposite tack.  Cram students into classrooms to the point that there aren’t enough seats for them.  Nitpick at the teachers over how they write their lesson plan, over what they write on the board, and act offended if they ask to take a day off.  Worse, make them clock in and out to see if they’re REALLY putting in their 10-12 hours a day.  Then tell them they have to “volunteer” for certain after school activities, because it’s AAAALLLLL about the kids.

This morning I received an email which informed the staff that more teacher “volunteers” are needed to help out during the school's movie night. “We need seven more volunteers, or else we'll have to cancel it because we won’t have enough supervision!  Come enjoy the evening with your students – we don’t want them to miss out on this fun event.”

No, we really don’t want them to miss out on Saw IV.  Where else could they see that?  So maybe I’ll volunteer so I can enjoy my evening supervising students in my free time.  I NEVER get to do that.  Besides, it's AAAAALLLLLL about the kids.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Introduction

I spent several years at a charter school in Texas, a pretty high-performing one, according to the numbers.  When I would tell people where I worked, their eyes would widen and they'd say, "Oh, I hear those are GREAT schools!"  Some would tell me how they had a friend or neighbor whose child went there, and how well he or she was doing now.  The implication was that the local public school wasn't cutting it and that finally, young Faruk was getting the education he deserved.

I'd usually smile and nod, especially during my first year.  But as time went on, I'd listen mutely and change the conversation.  Towards the end of my time at this TCS (Texas Charter School), I'd interrupt them and say no, they were wrong.  These were not good schools.  They were such bad schools, I'd say, that only an insane person would want to work there.  I couldn't wait to leave.

I thought when I left, that I was done with disorganized schools where no one really cares about the student or what he or she is learning.  Everyone paid lip service to the nebulous "education goals" that the institution had, while spending time in CYA mode and trying to further their climb up the career ladder.  I was SO done with schools that passed kids on who could barely read, who were horribly disorganized, who wasted taxpayer on textbooks they crammed into a back closet, and who allowed students to blatantly cheat on standardized tests because turning them in meant dealing with parents and TEA.  This school wants TEA to stay as far away as it can.

But then I took at job in a public school district nearby, because nothing could be worse than the school I came from, right?

Ever read "Heart of Darkness"?  You should, because it's a good read, and mentioning it makes people think you're smart and literate.  It's a story about greed, apathy, business and political corruption.

"The horror - the horror!"

Working in a public school is just as horrifying, with just as much greed, apathy and corruption as Conrad described, but with fewer rivets on the ground.

So, are you ready for a ride down the Congo?