Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Status Quo

This year I will finish my sixth year of teaching which puts me into a state of uncertainty. On the one hand, I am no longer a new teacher, yet many believe that after year six a teacher doesn't make much more progress. It becomes more about refinement as opposed to learning. This begs the question, if after year six I am not going to refine more than I am going to learn, do I need to be evaluated once a year.
The status quo teachers in a failing district do not. They believe that, having earned tenure, they are free to refine "on their own" as I have been told. The tenured teacher should not have to endure the hassle of a yearly observation, instead focusing on some professional growth plan in which she checks in twice a year with the administration.
I refuse to be a status quo teacher, and I hope my colleagues will vocally refuse the status quo as well. We are bombarded on many sides by new initiatives, many of which are repackaged and renamed, we are regularly reminded of our failure to teach, and we are often subjected to pointless and poorly designed professional development.
Yet, while we sit back and complain about the "other side," as a group we continue to support failed union policies which do not support and promote the absolute best in the classroom. Instead, tenured teachers want less oversight on them but more oversight on the non-tenured. Tenured teachers believe they are "accomplished" as some teacher evaluation plans call them. If a teacher union wants credibility at the table of education reform and policy, it must refuse to continue the status quo approach.

6 Comments:

At 2:10 PM , Blogger JC said...

Being a non-tenured teacher, I know what you're talking about. From my vantage point, tenured teachers can get away with murder and no one blinks an eye. I think this thought process is what causes so many new teachers to leave the profession. After the run in that I had with a tenured teacher, I've found myself already thinking about leaving this field. The union that I've been involved in doesn't protect the new teachers. I just keep reminding myself that the students are why I chose this profession. Some days are harder than others to maintain that focus.

 
At 5:44 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

JC--don't let the status quo fools get you down. They are hanging by a thread. If enough intelligent thinking teachers stop following the Union agenda, the best teachers will win out.

 
At 5:00 PM , Anonymous Mac Jones said...

Don't blame everything on the union system. Maybe if you decided to work WITH them instead of AGAINST them all the time you would find that progress could be made in a positive direction. But ideally what you want is for the union to be gone. So, you will never understand the benefit of having a union there. I have worked jobs that were not unionized and believe me, unions have an enormous affect on working conditions.

 
At 3:05 AM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Mac,
I too have worked non-union jobs. Teacher unions are not all evil. I've been a part of a union which dealt fairly and reasonably with the local district.
But when a teachers union wants to fight having all teachers evaluated once a year, or when a teachers union does not believe attendance should be a part of an evaluation, I cannot support those positions.
Ultimately, the success of a failing school can only happen when the union enters into a 21st century mindset. The AFT has a factory mindset reminiscent of the early 1900's. If the union cannot work with the board of education and central office towards removing the teacher barriers in student success, then that union, like the charter school movement promotes, needs to be dismantled.

Again, and for the record, teachers unions have value; they also can get in the way of progress.

 
At 9:28 AM , Blogger JC said...

I think that unions work when the union works for the people...all of the people. Right now the biggest problem that I see with unions is the tenure issue. Teachers with no tenure are not protected. Period. There was a big layoff in Indiana and the teachers who faced it were those who were new. Yes, they hired back 200 of the 300, but it was in a substitute position rather than regular classroom teacher. Out of those teachers who were initially laid off, "The toll would include nine of the 32 teachers recently announced as IPS' teacher of the year nominees. Two of the 10 finalists for the districtwide honor would be laid off." (http://www.indystar.com/article/20090428/LOCAL/904280399 )

I've had my own experiences that influence how I feel about school unions, but I'm not going to go into them now. Change is needed if we expect schools to flourish and students to pass the tests. So many pressures and expectations are placed on new teachers. It's no wonder half of them leave after a couple of years. If we must have a union, then the union must represent and protect quality teachers regardless of tenure. I wish I knew who to join with and speak out with about those who are underrepresented. It almost makes me want to go political, but I don't know who I'd contact.

 
At 1:54 PM , Anonymous Joe Bellacero said...

I'm assuming that "status quo teachers" is a label you've adopted and not a formal title chosen by a group asking that tenured teachers not submit to Observations. In which case isn't it misused? Aren't these teachers asking for a change in the status quo? It is not a change you favor obviously, but it is change.
Personally, I would favor a change in the traditional "observation" which has little to do with promoting "the absolute best in the classroom" and much to do with having teachers create a dog-and-pony show once a term or so, and administrators following a formula in which they give back what they observe, point out something good and something weak then suggest methods of improvement. Everyone signs, the paper is filed and life goes on unchanged. Occasionally, of course, observations are used to "get" a teacher who doesn't measure up, pisses off the administrator, does things a bit differently or costs too much. Rarely is is used to help a teacher grow.
Observations represent a failed policy and it is management's policy not the union's.
If a district is failing it is because of failed management policies. Management then points at the unions but let's not fall for that. Let's direct our anger properly.

 

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