Monday, November 13, 2006

Grrrrr.....


I work at an "alternative" high school on the West Side of Chicago. The "kids" are actually young adults, 17-21 years of age. Many of them are here as an alternative to prison time. The tiny staff (6 teachers, a secretary, two administrators, a counselor, two security guards, a custodian and a lunch lady) deal with a variety of tough things-- tough kids, tough situations. Many of the kids who walked in the door at the beginning of the year were prepared for this place to be their next failure.

I've come to greatly repect all of the teaching staff, and most of the rest of the staff. I usually think we've got pretty good administrators-- I've definitely had worse. Today, we had a memo in our mailboxes about lesson plans-- that they are to be in by Friday, or else we faced an administrative write-up.

Beyond the fact that this is a charter school, and a write-up basically means nothing....

We frequently have classes cancelled by events that were not announced, and have to somehow keep with the curriculum. We deal with kids who have attendence rates usually around 60%. We have kids who are learning disabled whom we still, two months into the school year have not recieved IEP's-- Individualized Education Plans-- it tells what their disabilities and limitations are, and give us guidelines for dealing with them. We've got kids with extreme emotional issues and mental health issues.

We come in every day and act professionally in the face of some horrendous classroom situations. Three of the six teachers are first-year teachers. I've seen two of them reduced to tears. And yet, we keep showing up with enthusiasm and hope. To recieve this petty memo is a real slap in our faces.

I've dealt with administrators in many fields-- government administrators , private sector administrators and education administrators. By far, the worst were education administrators. More than any other, they spend their time trying to justify their own existence. Almost all education administrators were classroom teachers at one time. As a friend said, is there a drug they take that makes them forget that?

7 comments:

Beth said...

Ugh. How frustrating that bureaucracy reigns -- especially in an environment where you're not getting what you need. Maybe y'all should protest, telling them you'll start submitting your lesson plans when they submit the IEPs.

And bravo to you for teaching in a school where good teachers are most needed.

Anonymous said...

...and now the thrid teacher has been reduced to tears from your words.

....You are my hero Pierre...

Palette said...

The IEP is a legal document which governs the students' rights to a fair an appropriate education. I believe that it is probably illegal for you to be operating in a classroom without access to these documents. In fact, you could indeed be liable for failing to follow the edict of these IEPs, however phantom they seem to be. I know because I successfully sued a particular school in the CPS system due to that very thing. My son's IEP stated that he was to be taught by a "certified special education teacher" and after one went on maternity leave they brought in a sub for 6 months that had not completed his certification. This resulted in some very nasty problems for the principle and was partially responsible, but not entirely, for the closure of the school. I would hate for you to be punished for something that is not your fault so I would get a copy of these documents pronto.

Palette said...

... fair AND appropriate...

principal...

oi vey spelling!!!

lulu said...

Lesson plans are the bane of my existence. I do them, because I am required to, but it is a rare week when I am actually right on track all week long; usually by Friday I am completely derailed. Something either takes a much longer or shorter time than I think it is going to, or I end up realizing that I can’t teach something without first reviewing something else, or I have to re-teach something because the kids didn’t get it the first time through.

I think they are a waste of time for most teachers, because you are either going to do a good job, or you’re not going to do a good job. Writing down which state goals you are meeting with each lesson doesn’t really mean much if you are a crappy teacher. And good teachers tend to meet so many different goals with each lesson that it is usually impossible to quantify what they have done.

I am certainly not an apologist for administrators, but I do think that being a principal must be one of the worst jobs ever. Your head is the first to roll if your school does poorly, but you have no real way to control what goes on in your school. For the most part, people in my school, at least the people I talk to regularly, follow the guidelines that our administration has put in place, reading across the curriculum, re-teaching, that sort of thing, but unless you spend 100% of your time in the classroom, you have no idea what your teachers are doing most of the time. I can understand the desire to want to get as much control and to have as much information as possible.

In the case of your school though, I think it is crazy to have 6 teachers write lesson plans. They can check out your classes pretty easily I would think. Plus, you teach so many different classes that you would spend all your time writing lesson plans.

lulu said...

And yes, you *need* to have access to IEPs. It's 2nd quarter, they should be in place at this point.

Bubs said...

Oh, administrators.

I've had limited exposure to education bureaucrats, and most of my experiences as an outsider have been positive. Whether I'd want to work for them is another matter.

I agree with Beth--my hat's off to teachers, and especially ones who work in cities, and with kids who are most at risk. There's easier ways to make a living.