We are on the downhill slide of the year. One more day. And I still don’t know what I’m going to be doing next year! My evaluator hasn’t darkened my door in over a month (and that wasn’t for an evaluation but a discipline problem) but I did make evaluating me easier than gravity. I gave her a CD of some video I shot doing some teaching and included my data sheet/lesson plan with it. I knew we were going to be crushed at the end and thought she could use that in a pinch. So we’ll see.
What I do know, is that 1/4 of our faculty is departing this year, and one third of those will be from the special education department. It is going to be hideously hard to fill those vacancies, with mine being the absolute hardest to fill. Let’s face it; people are not beating my door down trying to get in. They might try to keep me in this room for another year, which would be stressful but I would do it with the understanding that this would be my last year at this high school. I won’t be screwed over twice. This state of limbo makes it hard to prepare for summer inservice classes as they are offering several co-teaching classes but they want the co-teachers to take the class together. That’s a bit difficult when a large number of those who will be doing the co-teaching are not even hired yet!
So why the big turn-over? For one thing, our principal is leaving. The new principal will be principal #4 for me. Administrators come and go. If you don’t like the one you got, wait a few years and you’ll get a new one. If you like the one you have, enjoy it because the wind will shift directions pretty soon. Fightin’ Joe was an assistant for a few years before taking the head job, and while he was an AP we saw quite a bit of him in my room and with my kids. He even played the role of Santa Clause during a Christmas party we had one year. I know – totally not age appropriate! Once he became the head guy, we rarely ever saw him. And really, that is absolutely fine with me. I know he had bigger fish to fry with AYP (which we made most years he was principal) and while I appreciate any time an administrator spends with us, no news is mostly good news. Administrators traditionally have to spend most of their time putting out fires and the fact that we’ve had relatively few has been a relief to us all.
Another reason we might be seeing higher turnover might have something to do with this Washington Post article. My previous article touched on that theme a bit, and I agree with Steven Rothman that somehow parents are micromanaging their schools to death. My take on it is that parents want to hold the schools responsible for raising their children, and when teachers and schools fail to raise the children (as they most certainly will) parents get upset. They are less concerned about the education their children receive as much as they are about making excuses for their child’s behavior or lack of progress. We live in an age where people can take charge of their own education and learning and yet precious few are actually doing that. They want others to hold their hands and babysit and nag them.
The answer to this is not going to come from us as educators. It has to come from us as parents. I am totally in favor of parents banding together, sharing resources, ideas or even complaining about us as teachers. But too often, these groups become gripe festivals that incite parents to go after the schools in order to demand more and more while offering very little. The autism groups are probably the most notorious offenders of all. I can tell when I have a parent that is being coached by a real life or online group. The adversarial relationship is there from the start, and parents are braced for battle. It’s one thing if the school or teacher has earned it by failing to educate as they are supposed to. But parents will too often wait until the IEP to air every complaint, and instead of an hour-long meeting, we end up there all day. Working things out ahead of time, instead of springing all the demands at once can salvage a lot of good will. Teachers should do this as well, sharing information on a regular basis. As educators, we can minimize a lot of the micromanagement by practicing a certain degree of transparency in what we are doing.
But in the end, it is up to parents to establish the prevailing culture of their neighborhoods and communities. I’m sure many of you know of children in your neighborhood running wild, making a nuisance of themselves, staying out entirely too late on school nights and basically not behaving in a responsible manner. And the parents let them. But I know that the neighbors can have more influence in the form of peer pressure. Peer pressure doesn’t end with high school. In the case of kids with disabilities, you might know of parents who seem to cultivate dependence by doing everything for the child except chew his food for him. Most kids can put on their own coats, use the toilet and eat with a spoon before they go to kindergarten. And yet there’s a group of parents who expect the schools to train the special needs kids to do these things. How do other kids learn this stuff without schools and teachers? This is why the school and parents need to be part of a cooperative partnership.
I’m sure I’ve spouted on long enough on this theme. Later this summer, my family and I will be going on a real vacation and seeing and learning about different areas of the country. It’s going to be better than whatever the school system can offer, but I don’t feel the need to force the public system to provide those kinds of educational experiences and opportunities. We’re doing it as parents, and that’s as it should be.