Monday, January 4, 2016

Back in the ill-fitting saddle, fittingly

Being sick causes you to reflect on some things.  There's something about lying in bed that causes you to take stock and review your life.  That's one reason why sick people always look miserable, or at least why I do. 

I’m reflecting on my poor choices of workplaces in the past.  Granted, I’m sure there are some good public schools out there, but they usually don’t have openings or I don’t know about them.  That’s why I jumped ship for a private school, so don’t judge me, Mr. or Ms. Judgy! 

When I interviewed at TCS, the AP I interviewed with asked me to give her a sample lesson.  I got all prepared for the sample lesson, and asked where the classroom was.  “Here,” she said.  We were in her tiny office. 

“You want me to just give the lesson to you?”  I figured sample lesson meant we were going to simulate a classroom environment.  Boy was I wrong.  I stumbled through the lesson while she hunched over in her chair behind her desk, sucking on a bottle of Diet Coke. 

I got the job anyway.  It should have occurred to me that their standards weren’t too high, and that should have been my warning to leave.  I was a new teacher, though, and eager to find a school.  I’d heard great things about TCS, great things that turned out to be, for lack of a better word, lies.

From what I noticed later, they would give a job to any warm body that came by.  I worked with some great teachers, but most of the worst teachers I ever saw were at TCS.  I also worked with some mediocre teachers who thought they were great. It wasn’t hard to be great at TCS – you just had to not suck at your job.

For example, the LOTE department head wasn’t certified to teach in the U.S.  She was a soft-spoken woman who’d put up with a lot, just so that she wasn’t forced out.  We had a science teacher who was caught showing “Sex and the City” to his class.  This was in January.  He claimed he’d already finished the entire year’s curriculum and was just trying to “pass the time.”  Smart guy – he was actually moved to another school and promoted to department head.  Our chemistry teacher sat in a corner of his room and played on the computer while the class fell into anarchy all around him.  He told the kids, “I don’t care what you do, I don’t care if you cheat, but you WILL respect me.”  All the juniors failed chemistry that year.  I don’t think his logic worked.

Our dean of discipline never did any discipline.  She constantly told us not to send students to the office, that we should be able to “handle it ourselves.”  Teachers, frustrated by a few students constantly disrupting class, began shoving those students out into the halls.  This same dean also refused to contact parents when she was put in charge of curriculum and instruction.  She claimed she was “too busy.”  I’d love to know what she was too busy doing, if she was too busy to do her actual job.  Maybe she was constantly simulating a classroom environment for prospective teachers?

The teachers I worked with at CISD were pretty good.  But they quickly grew tired and burned out.  They came to CISD because they were leaving other bad districts and just hoping for something better, and why not?  We had a new superintendent and leadership in the school, so it seemed like things would improve.  Despite all the talk about change, teacher turnover last year surpassed 70%.  I guess I’m not the only teacher who became disillusioned pretty quickly with the broken promises, frequent on campus violence and uninvolved but blame-happy administration.

Debut Academy is so different that I almost don’t think I deserve it.  Yes, there are some mediocre teachers, but they’re mediocre in a way that wouldn’t hurt anyone.  Bad teachers haven’t lasted very long at all.  Good teachers are in the majority, and I’m working hard to try to be one of them. 

I used to be dismissive of private schools, feeling like they were similar to gated communities.  My feeling is that everyone deserves a good education, just as everyone deserves to live in a nice place, so why would you fence it in and make it inaccessible to others?  Now I think I understand, even if I don’t condone it.  If you pay money for it, you want a good value for your dollar.  Private schools don’t need to cater to students who want to disrupt the classroom, administrators that just want to collect a paycheck, or teachers who don’t care enough to do what they’re supposed to. 

That doesn’t mean all private schools are good, just that I’ve found a good one and am so grateful.  The negative aspects are so minimal it’s not even worth bringing them up.  Except tech support, which really, really sucks.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that yet. But really, I love it here, minus the IT department.