Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A career, a calling, a time to move on?

It's hard for me to put in words my feelings about work without sounding like what most of America thinks teachers are. This has been one of the hardest school years already for a variety of reasons, and it truly is enough to make me daydream about not working anymore. It's the first year I can honestly say I don't love my job. What has happened? State pressure = district trying to stay ahead of the curve.

Here in Michigan teachers are apparently overpaid and underworked. The tenure system is horrible and must be gotten rid of. Union protection is unnecessary, & pay raises should be based on test outcomes. To this end, my district has been changing the evaluation process. Where it used to be every 3 years, now it's every year. They introduced a new rubric & goals about 5 years ago that now is out the window. Our goals must now be SMART - I forget what it all stands for, but measurable, attainable, blah blah blah. We are required to have 3 of them, 2 related to our School Improvement Plan goal (more on the SIP in a minute). Of the 2 related to our SIP, 1 must be a PLC goal (all content and grade similar teachers have the same goal).

We must meet with our evaluator to review our "rough draft" goals. Fine. Then put them on Form B. But not last year's Form B, this year's updated version. Which won't be released until the day after the goals are due. There will be 2 drop-in evaluations. I'm fine with that too. Then in the Spring I have to review & reflect on my goals in writing, and include data-driven proof that my goals were met.

Having 2 goals relate to the School Improvement Plan... interesting, since I also have to be part of making our content SIP goal. We have professional development days to do just that. And go over MEAP scores. And meet in our PLC groups to come up with common assessments, which are encouraged to be used as part of our goal.

Oh yes, and if you're given a rating of minimally or not effective? That's how they're going to let teachers go now when cuts need to be made. In theory a good idea; in practice you get no chance to improve yourself. A teacher is given their evaluation in May, and usually by the end of May we're notified if we're laid off. Not even the business world is that strict - usually given targets to reach or ways to improve, am I right?

In theory, it all sounds good. Teachers paid on how well they teach! Able to get rid of poor teachers no matter how long they've been there!  My problem: I WANT TO TEACH. I am tired of making ridiculous goals, so I can make ridiculous assessments, and spend my professional development time making more goals and going over data. I WANT TO TEACH. Give me PD on strategies I can implement... techniques to use... ways to understand & reach learners who aren't engaged... THAT'S what I'm doing this job for. I want to interact with students, I want to get them enthusiastic and learn to like (love?) my content area!  I could really not give a damn if students demonstrate an increase of 20% proficiency on a test (or 70% of students will pass the post-test, or....)

Go ahead and test them... if I'm a poor teacher, it will show in more than data-driven tests. You can walk into a classroom and document who is a bad teacher based on teaching style & engagement. Not all kids are going to be great at every subject. That has nothing to do with my teaching skills. I know I should care how they perform - and I do. But I certainly don't want my entire career based on whether a certain percent do better on a 23-question test on the Constitution.

I haven't even started on the other issue: my district has decided that all teachers need to be re-taught how to teach reading in the content areas. Never mind I had a similar class as a requirement by the state for my Masters degree. And I did learn some great strategies. But I was pulled out of the classroom 2x already in the first 3 weeks of school (with a third day out in November). THE WORST time to pull a teacher out. Does my teaching even matter?  The first couple weeks of school are crucial to setting the tone for the rest of the year. Apparently the "sub calendar" is a more important consideration. Oh yes, and on top of all the above? We are required to now do 9 hours of professional development on our own time. Plus most of us are trying to earn the 6 "real" college continuing ed credits required by the state.

I am already sick of meetings, and goals, and all this crap. It did not take long for me to dread sitting at these things. My mind gets overwhelmed, I get grumpy and angry, and the idea of changing my career looks sweeter and sweeter. My principal assures me that things will all change (for better or worse) in the next couple years as the pendulum swings.... truly I don't know if I can wait that long. I have talents and interests that can be used and appreciated elsewhere, because it's clear to me neither the state of Michigan nor my district appreciates the fact that I can, actually, TEACH. As in, interact with students? Get them to enjoy learning? On top of that, middle school students! The dreaded early teens! This isn't cared about in this day, age, and state.

I'm thinking about being a stay-at-home mom. Or going back for another Masters in Library Science or Public History to work at a museum. I bet if I looked, I could even get a job as an education coordinator or what-have-you at a smaller museum. I would really miss interacting with kids though. Which is the only thing keeping me teaching this year.

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