Predicament

4 Jun

There seems to always be some sort of drama/cliffhanger for at the end of the school year, where there is uncertaintly as to whether or not I’ll be coming back.  It isn’t just because it makes for good blogging, but it really is how things turn out.  During my 3rd year, our program spun off  one of the three teachers to another high school, and I volunteered to go.  but they chose someone else.  During year 5, the other position spun off to yet another high school.  I didn’t volunteer for that, tho.  Year 6, I applied for the behavior specialist position.  Year 7, I applied for co-teaching science.  Year 8 I applied for coteaching science again.  And this past year, year 9, I applied to transfer to another school.

When the department head read off the assignments for this fall, my name was read off and a collective groan went up from the entire department.  They all knew that I really wanted out. But it appears that I will be doing a 10th year in the SID/PID program.  This despite, the words of the supt. of HR back in March.  Yeah.  He lied.

Calling the guy a liar seems like a strong attack, but I don’t see what else I could call it.  I even emailed a follow up a month ago with my resume, certifications and a transcript showing all the things I was qualified to teach.  And it all amounted to zilch.  He never intended to work with me, and neither did the principal.  There was no follow-up and I now believe there was never any intention of follow-up.

I had a long and rather heated discussion with another administrator over this.  apparently the reasoning for me being put back into the spot I’ve been trying to get out of was the fact that there is no one else who can do it who is qualified.  Not that anyone looked very hard, but people who are HQ in the adapted curriculum are few and far between.  And those willing to stay in that field are even fewer.

Gosh, I wonder why THAT is?!?!

Could it be that the administration would rather burn someone out and toss them away rather that try to retain them?  If they spent nearly as much effort on retention as they do on recruitment, they wouldn’t have to fly clear to India to find people to fill spots vacated by people already qualified and experienced!

The predicament is that I’m a victim of my own success.  I didn’t miss a single day of work this past year.  I have never been late to work in all the 9 years I’ve been here.  I did all the right things and did them better than anyone else.  And the reward for my competence is to keep me in a position when I made it absolutely clear that I wanted to try something else.

“We just want to do what is best for the kids.”

So do I, which is why I do give them my best, but my best is getting to be less and less.  But apparently it is still better than anyone else is willing or able to give.  So I’m stuck until I become as incompetent as a certain other fellow I worked with who had to be carried out on a stretcher because he had a nervous breakdown.  Sheesh.

I’ve watched as other good (and some bad) SID/PID teachers in other schools were allowed to transfer and move.  It makes me wonder what I’ve done wrong. Or what I need to do wrong.  After watching the turnover in so many other schools, I never dreamed it would be so difficult to extricate myself from this position at this school. It is like the proverbial tarbaby.  I thought that by working harder I could earn my way out, when instead it has made me more irreplacable!  Now I’m feeling more like Andy Dufresne when he discovers that the warden will never let him out because he knows too much or maybe more like his friend Red who keeps getting rejected by the parole board.

But I think I’m more like Andy, in that I do have hope.

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

And I do have a couple of plans up my sleeve.  One of which involves a bit more schooling to pursue my interests, which mainly involve education and technology.  And then another little thing that I’ve kind of ducked and dodged away over the years.  But I’ll get into that later this fall.  You’ll just have to wait and see.  It’ll be a major thrill ride if it happens.

And finally, in addition to pursuing my interests in technology through classes and attending Classroom 2.0 webinars, I’m thinking about starting some sort of technology or video club.  Part of what gets to me is the isolation of this particular position in regards to the overall improvement plan of the school.  I spend a lot of time thinking about things like 21st century learning and using advanced technology and I can not use any of it in my classroom with my students.  The technology head of the county won’t listen to me because I have no real application of thing like social networks or wikis outside of what I try to do with other faculty members.  And honestly, most of them just don’t get it.  While they’re all on Facebook, they haven’t tried to leverage the technology to reach their students or to collaborate with each other.  And I don’t have students to try out my ideas on.  So a club might provide a sort of venue/sandbox to try some things while supporting the larger mission of the school.  Thing is, I have no experience with starting and running a club like this.  So that will be a major adventure, and perhaps a source of some meaningful change.

So hang on to your butts.  There is a wild ride ahead!  I just need to spend a big part of the summer licking my wounds and recharging.  I’ll still blog things that come up on my mind as they come over the summer, but a whole lot will be spent just learning, thinking and pondering my fate.

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3 Responses to “Predicament”

  1. K Brogden June 5, 2009 at 11:34 am #

    Mr. Dage-

    Thanks for your continued chronicles of life in the SPED lane. So much to learn from what you share personally and professionally. NOTHING our school systems do surprises me. Living and working in Greene County as a MOID/SID/PID high school teacher for the past 2 years, your words help me to hang in there. I really look forward to your blog entries.

    So sorry you got “burned” again. You did not deserve it, IMO. Thinking outside of the box myself, as soon as I recover from end of year school dramas. Today is actually a good day since school ended.

    Respectfully,
    Kathy B

  2. Sylvia Copeland June 14, 2009 at 7:44 pm #

    Hi Mr. Dage,
    I teach students at the other end of the spectrum from you – preschool students with severe disabilities, half of whom are designated “medically fragile.” I accidentally discovered your site while searching for examples of how other teachers track IEP goals. I’ve been reading your various posts and the responses to them for nearly two hours!!

    I spent my last year learning the ropes as a new-to-public-school teacher and everything always seemed so disorganized and haphazard. I’m tired of the feeling that I’m just putting out small fires all the time (while a raging inferno threatens to overtake me from behind), and hope to find an efficient method of tracking information about my students, including their progress toward goals & objectives, weekly therapy sessions, mainstreaming opportunities, and their health status. I found one good site, “circleofinclusion.org” with some forms that seem promising!

    This was my first year teaching in public school – my previous experiences encompass a little over 2 decades of teaching preschool children with and without identified special needs. This includes over a decade at a nonprofit, private school for children with disabilities from 6 weeks to 6th grade, a year as a director at a for-profit child care center, and close to a decade at a parent-participation “typical” preschool, as well as a other miscellaneous teaching experiences.

    I said all that as a preface to saying, “Thank you!” for this blog. This past year was pretty lonely, in spite of having a BTSA (teacher support) mentor, and lots of people who continuously told me what a “great job!” I was doing, yet never or rarely-ever visited my classroom. The school where I taught was built long ago, in the old style, with my classroom placed at the extreme end of the campus, far away from the office, in a portable building “module.”

    I can count on one hand the teachers who made any effort to get to know me, even though I was one of only two new staff at the school. I worked hard to maintain an upbeat, friendly attitude toward everyone, as well as promoting an open-door policy with my classroom. I had many visits from general ed. students who came by out of curiosity, offered their perspectives on students with disabilities and gave me hope for the future of our world.

    However, there was a clear message from the general ed. teachers that they felt that special educators are overpaid for the small numbers of students we teach (we are paid the same salary as general educators). I rarely had visits from them, so they had little to no concept of what occurs in my classroom, and the amount of work (mental and physical) involved.

    I appreciate your comments on burnout. I just returned to teaching after a few years off. This was after nearly burning out on teaching, nearly divorcing my husband of 20+ years, moving myself and my sons to another state to be with him and receiving my Master’s in special education. I am glad to be teaching again, but it was a rough past year as I learned the “public school shuffle,” and realized that there are benefits and draw backs to private school vs. public school, with neither setting being ideal.

    I’m also beginning to realize honestly that I get a lot from teaching this population, not least of which is self-esteem. I went through a pretty deep depression when I wasn’t teaching. People have always said to me that I have a “gift” for working with children and parents, that I must be very patient and, “You must be a very special person.” Personally, I think teaching middle school is a much harder job – those who teach middle school EBD are to be especially admired! Sometimes I feel like I’m putting up a front to the world, because inside I don’t feel very patient and caring at all! It’s nice to know that even a very experienced teacher like you has feelings of wanting to do something different, and feeling resentment that your ability to do your job well has locked you into a situation that no one else wants. I can really relate to your comment, “I thought that by working harder I could earn my way out, when instead it has made me more irreplacable!”

    I received a pink slip this year, but was assured by very high level administrators that I didn’t have to worry about it, as “no one else wants your job.” I am grateful to have a job, but sad to think that when I am ready for a change, I will probably end up in the same boat as you. I stayed with a previous job for 4 extra years because I couldn’t stand to see the parents faces when I told them I was leaving. This was part of the reason I decided to move to another state! Pretty pathetic, huh?

    I’m no longer sure where I was going with this post – it’s just great to be able to “talk” to someone who seems to understand and is comfortable enough to express his honest feelings about this business. It’s simultaneously the best and the hardest job I can think of. The best because of the students and the worst because of the lack of support and the isolation. My program is being moved to another site. I’m actually grateful, in the hopes that I will be able to start fresh and will have another colleague to brainstorm with. My experience with teaching will benefit her. She is new to teaching altogether, but has 2 more years experience with navigating the public school maze. I’m teaching summer school for the next few weeks, and then moving on to my new site!

    Once again, thanks for being here (and for the opportunity to vent)!
    Sorry I took up so much time and space!

    Stillhopeful

  3. Daniel Dage June 25, 2009 at 5:48 pm #

    Thanks for following along, Kathy! Yes, much of the summer is going to be spent charging up and recharging and getting my head wraped around doing this again. But the way I figure, I am officially Ironman. This administration had its chance to get rid of me, and blew it. Now I’m thinking that I’ll take the opportunity to try to inflict some major reforms on the system that are so badly needed. I intend on being a more vicious advocate instead of trying not to rock the boat so much. It seems pretty pointless to go along with injustice when security is not even an issue. And making waves is a lot more fun!

    Funny, I thought maybe Greene county would be easier. Oh well, I guess things aren’t that much different no matter where you go!

    Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting on me, Sylvia! Yes, I can relate to a lot of what you shared. I’m not sure how much risk there is of you getting locked in as it might depend on your administration more. As far as a lot of the isolation and lack of knowledge and resources, I am working on that, too, and will be posting something on those efforts before the end of summer. I’m seriously not going to be able to make it through another year of just trying to drag along and survive! So I’m just going to sieze a bunch of challenges and branch out in other ways. I’m forever reinventing myself. Change is the only constant, even if it isn’t the sort of change I’m looking for!

    D.

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