Monday, August 28, 2017

Double the trouble! For me...

I live near Houston, so I'm stuck in the house, watching the rising floodwaters and praying it doesn't come near my house.  This is causing me to reflect on a lot of things.  And you know what occurred to me?  How much I hate "double contact rules."

Double contact rules are put in place by schools. The rules are designed to make sure that parents of struggling students are contacted so that they know their child is struggling or failing, or in danger of failing. 

Both TCS and CISD had double contact rules.  The parent or parents of each failing child were supposed to be contacted each term so that the parents are aware of it.  The person who had to communicate with them was me, the teacher.

I hated the rules.  First of all, they were arbitrary and unnecessary.  Both districts I taught in had an online system where parents could log in and see their child's grade and assignments.  All of the teachers I worked with updated the system regularly.  But even though a parent could log in every day and see the daily grade fluctuations, I was still supposed to call him or her and let them know, in case they were "unaware" or "didn't have Internet access."

No internet access?  Everyone who has a smartphone has internet access.  If a parent chooses not to check his or her child's grade, that's on the parent. When we, the teachers, would point this out to the administration, the answer that came back was invariably, "Well, parents have come to us and say they didn't know their child was failing."

I have an answer for that, which is the parent is lying, or doesn't care.  These same parents never show up for parent-teacher conferences, or contact the teacher when the progress reports or report cards come out.  If they don't know, it's because they are choosing not to know. 

Anyone with a functioning brain also knows not to take at face value everything a teenager tells him or her.  For example, if your kid never has homework and says the teachers didn't give him any, your kid is lying.  There is ALWAYS homework at some point.  If you never ask about it, you are a negligent parent.  If your kid says that the grades in the system are wrong or the teacher hasn't entered the grades, your kid is still lying.  

Sorry, parent, it's on you.  If you show up at the end of the year because Junior is about to be held back or sent to summer school and complain that you had no idea, where were you during the school year?  

CISD insisted that we had to call each parent.  I ignored that.  First of all, phone numbers change all the time, so even if I do try to call, if I can't reach the parent, what proof do I have that I called?  If I had a working email address for a parent, I emailed.  It leaves a paper trail.  Plus, I've known parents who claim I never called them, even after I finally tracked them down and had a long phone or face-to-face conversation with them. 

I think the double contact rules are just another way to add to the teacher workload and make teachers responsible for the parenting, not parents.  That doesn't work and it's not fair to either the teacher or the student.  How about if, instead of pushing the responsibility onto the teacher, when the parent complains about Junior failing his class, the administration looks up how many times he or she checked the grade online, called the teacher, or came in for parent-teacher conferences?  THAT'S a rule I could get behind. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray...

So yeah, school is starting in just a few days.  In some ways this is less stressful for me because I don't have my typical teaching job at a typical school anymore.  No worrying about whether or not my classroom is set up properly, no last minute requests for materials that won't get delivered anyway, and no "Welcome to Ms. Marlowe's class" PowerPoint to edit. 

In some ways that makes me a little sad, but not so much.  I'll still be working with students, but one-on-one, and I won't be teaching traditional lessons.  I'll be interacting with administrators most of the time.  I spent a good chunk of the summer reading, rewriting curriculum and working on developing a new class for students with reading comprehension.  It's rewarding, but exhausting in a completely different way. 

I guess it's good to have change.  This is where I wanted to be anyway, but it feels weird to be out of the regular classroom.  It's like I'm also graduating, just like my old students did.  So I'm happy but sad, moving forward but looking back, and all those other paradoxes. 

In the meantime, I ran into one of my old students at Target in town.  She looked shocked to see me there, but said she would miss seeing me in the hallways this year.  "You were always telling students to stop running and looking really annoyed while you drank your Coke Zero!"

Yeah, good times.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Stuck in the middle with you - no really, stuck!

My time working at CISD taught me a lot.  Almost too much, in fact... 

While in the midst of applying for any and all other jobs that I see online (“Make money working from home.  $4K in one month.  Apply now!!”  That one looks promising.),  I see that my district is still looking to fill about seven different positions at my school.  If I’m correct, these are positions that have been open since the beginning of the school year.

I wouldn’t say our state has a teaching shortage.  Usually, you can’t swing a dead cat and not hit a teacher looking for work (they love cats.)  But if you are looking for teaching work in November, this has to raise some red flags.  For example, why can’t the school fill this position?  Are their standards too high?  Do the interviewers turn people off?  Maybe not enough people are actually applying, and if so, why is that?

For me, the second question it raises is why the applicant is looking for a job right now.  Most teachers, if they get laid off, get laid off at the end of the school year.  A teacher would have to be pretty awful, or engaging in criminal acts, for a school to get rid of them midway through the year.  But maybe the applicant quit because he or she realized that he or she is at a horrible school, and sticking it out until the end of the year is too awful to even contemplate.  I wasn’t talking about anyone in particular when I wrote that last sentence.

That said, I can tell you that during my time at TCS, we had two people who came in midyear.  One was a math teacher, who quickly distinguished himself by openly pursuing some of the female teachers, despite his obvious handicap of being married.  He even told his students how he wanted to “get with” certain teachers.  One of those teachers he wanted to “get with” clearly had a drug problem or was bipolar.  She also came in midyear, to replace a science teacher who quit.  Ms. Bipolar/drug problem was let go after the administration found out she was offering to buy the students booze.

Another midyear find was a counselor who became one of our administrators.  Her makeup got heavier and heavier during the school year, while her hair extensions became longer.  She was seen “servicing” a social studies teacher in his car in the school parking lot, and then bragged about it to some of the other teachers a few weeks later.  Ms. Counselor also showed up drunk to chaperone the prom. 

Midyear finds – what finds they are!  At your next parent-teacher conference, ask the teacher when he/she started working at the school.  If s/he came in midyear, it’s time to ask for a schedule change.