No Hammocks, No Papers [The Letters Series]

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

This week, I’m writing a few more letters to different people, whose names shall be removed from the post, but who nonetheless are amalgamations of real characters. I won’t be mincing words this week, and in these letters, I hope to address some issues I find in education as a whole through these letters. If need be, I’ll apologize later. Actually, I probably won’t.

Wimpy Asks for a Bailout

Wimpy Asks for a Bailout

Dear Mr. Sleep-a-Lot,

In the smaller scheme of things, you really don’t matter as far as my work with the math department or my work with my kids. You come briskly in and briskly out, saluting the strangers in our school while the rest of us consider ourselves family, dysfunctional and all. There’s a sense that you don’t want to be here, and I fully understand. When the principal makes his presence felt around you, you’re quick to pat him on the back, tell him you’re working hard for him, and should he need anything, you’ll take care of it. When asked to come through on this promise, you fall. Flat. Hard. With no remorse.

Good luck with that.

First, I gotta say I’m annoyed with your lack of care for our students. You let them pretty much run all over you, and you almost purposefully ignore the hard work the prior teacher left up on the board just so you wouldn’t have to collect the residual class work from the students. You call them all types of names without actually knowing who they are, and call in others to help solve your discipline problems. You sit in the hallway desk reading the paper, never minding the students fighting right across from you or the loud sounds coming from the boys’ bathroom right next to you.

People throughout the district know all about your incompetence, and yet, you’re so happy to deliver your [lack of] instruction to our students who need this so desperately. It’s even worse because you have a similar background to the students we teach, so your employment under the school system is as much a swindle of your culture as it is of the area’s taxpayers’ hard-earned money. You’ve learned every trick in the book when it comes to keeping yourself afloat, and I can’t imagine you ever having been a competent teacher on any level.

The worst part is: you’re the teacher who makes veteran teachers look like the problem in education.

The ratio of excellent vets to people like you could be 234850298345 to 1, but because of you and your inability to adhere to some semblance of educational pedagogy, those other great teachers have to constantly prove their worth when they always had worth in my eyes. You’re the reason the edu-deformers have attacked the union so thoroughly. You’re the reason why some people in the new teacher programs chastised newbies who followed the veterans and create schisms between staff members. You’re the reason why edubloggers always have to go on the offensive when it comes to their own pedagogy. You’re the reason why The Simpsons had to make Mrs. Krabappel. Frankly, you’re the reason why the conversations about tenure and salary differentials exist anyways.

If it was up to me, we’d raise the years needed for tenure to 5-6 years, the average time for a teacher to leave or stay. I’d probably lower the length it takes to give a teacher “due process” to 2 years. I’d probably ask for clearer definitions of competency since 90% of all teachers in this country get satisfactory ratings throughout the year (which either means we have a lot more competence teachers than the edu-deformers admit to or the people who administer these ratings don’t always know how to measure teacher effectiveness, a discussion for another time). I’d increase the amount each school gets in their budget so they’re less tempted to cut out highly competent vets who can then mentor younger students, producing more whole school communities rather than the current schema.

Lastly, I’d have a “no hammocks, no papers” rule. Just for people like you.

I’m not saying you’re not human, and that you don’t have a family to feed, your own issues to take care of, or your life to sustain. You could have been an ambitious and idealistic teacher who fell by the wayside from a system that still fails to support teachers enough for true teacher retention.

Yet, teachers fuel the schools’ bodies, and the weakest blood vessel can disrupt the whole body of work.

No administrator would give you a U rating because you’re either too nice or they don’t want to go through a 3-year process to dismiss you thoroughly. No union member will actively fight for you because in the national scheme of things, you’re making us look bad. No student will vouch for you because you read the paper before, during, and after class.

While you’re in tune with what’s going on in the world outside of school, you’ve completely missed the boat on transforming the world inside the school for those who need it most …

Jose, who’s as pro-union as they come, but recognizes the need for change …

p.s. – In related news, check this post by Larry Ferlazzo on the myth of “teachers coming from the lowest third of graduating classes”