Saturday, January 23, 2010

It's Over

Yesterday was my last day working at my school. It was one hell of an experience: five months of intense teacher boot camp. I've learned a ton. It was possibly the most difficult five months of my life, and I'm glad it's over, but I'm also glad it happened.

When I decided to move to DC, it wasn't because I didn't enjoy working at my previous school in Seattle. I loved that school. It was amazingly diverse in SO many ways. I had amazing and fabulous students and colleagues to work with. In a lot of ways, I couldn't imagine a better environment in which to work as a teacher. There was, however, something missing. I didn't feel as though I was being pushed to grow in my practice. I was observed twice a year by the same assistant principal who always told me I was doing a great job. I felt, to some degree, like my practice was stagnating. I needed more critical feedback about how to be a more effective teacher in my content area and with classroom management. I also needed more accountability. So, I decided to move to DC, not necessarily because I thought I would find those things here, but because I believe change almost always leads to growth. And often times, the bigger the change, the more one is forced to adapt and grow.

When I got to my new school in DC, I was incredibly excited (see my earlier posts from August and September of 2009) about the new environment I was entering. Not only was my move to DC going to be a major change, but I also believed that the school I'd been hired at would provide me with the things I'd been yearning for: critical feedback and accountability.

In the first two months of working at this new school (September and October), I felt like my administration really was providing me with the support I was looking for. I would get observed on a weekly basis (sometimes with feedback, and sometimes without). I was being held accountable for what was happening in my classroom by being asked to turn in objectives calendars and show administration data concerning how my students were doing in my content area. I believed (and still believe) that these were essential components to increasing teacher effectiveness. Teachers, like any other profession, should be held accountable for their work. I jumped right in and attempted to fulfill all of the school's requirements. The young, energetic (and naive) perfectionist that I am, I was creating unit plans, lesson plans, objectives calendars, vocabulary activities, reading campaigns, projects, portfolios, and assessments all in the school's prescribed templates. There was a part of me that knew I'd gotten the shaft by the school in a number of ways (there was no curriculum for our world history course, I'd been given three AP classes I'd never taught or been trained for, there was never any adequate training on how to align all of the products we were expected to produce, and there was no money or time for AP training), but I believed that these were byproducts of a necessarily imperfect system. I believed this imprefect system to also be the cause of the complete lack of a well-run discipline system. But I accepted these challenges as things that needed to be worked on and gave up my nights and weekends to take on this job.

As a result of my over-eagerness, I felt burned out on a daily basis. Every lesson had to be perfect. Every unit plan and project had to be up to par. Every assessment had to be clearly aligned to the standards. I knew I was charged with an important task and I wanted to prove that I could handle it. I couldn't shortchange the kids and I wanted to show the administration that I was worthy of the task.

During this period (the first two months, which I'll refer to as HELL from here on out), I went through three experiences that I consider to be tantamount to nervous breakdown. All of these happened on Mondays during my first-period planning. After spending all weekend preparing my plans for the coming week, struggling to prepare my classroom for the perfect lesson, and after having sat through the first morning meeting of the week (during which time I was always reminded that I wasn't doing enough to get my students on grade-level and support all of their needs), something would always go wrong. My printer would jam just when I desperately needed a handout ready for the students. Or my computer would crash just as I was putting some finishing touches on my PowerPoint presentation. Or I would realize at the last minute that my perfect lesson relied on the desks being in a different arrangement. My blood pressure would shoot through the roof; I wouldn't be able to think clearly; and I would just stop dead in my tracks. I needed to sit down and breathe.

Now for anyone who's never had the experience of desperately wanting to be an excellent teacher in an urban environment, this may all sound fairly silly to you. But if that's the case, it's probably hard for you to understand that new teachers in a lot of schools need to be ready for every last detail unless they want the students to walk all over them and not get anything accomplished in class. Also consider that a teacher who allows this to happen must deal with the fact that s/he is shortchanging a group of kids who desperately need a few more coins in their pocket.

So HELL was not an easy time for me. However, it was during HELL that I made the most significant gains in terms of my abilities as a teacher. Thanks to the accountability and indirect mentorship (my real mentor never actually met with me) at my school, I developed consistently engaging and useful Do Now activities that made the rest of my lessons more accessible for all of my students. I developed a useful system for administering quick and useful diagnostic and formative assessments on a daily basis that were aligned with my objectives. I became significantly better at organizing my instruction around rigorous objectives that were based on standards. I became much more effective at classroom management and parent communication. I found a new focus on rigor for ALL of my students. And I developed useful ways to track my students' progress in the classroom. I can say that I am a much better teacher for having gone through HELL, easily twice what I was when I was teaching in Seattle.

By the time November (a period I'll refer to as Disillusionment) rolled around, however, things had begun to change. (It's interesting because you can see my mood changing in my blog posts during this time). I was absolutely burned out. I often felt like there wasn't another fiber in me that could muster up the energy to create the perfect lesson plan day after day. I began to slip. I'd developed positive relationships with my students and my classroom management was taking nowhere near as much time as it had been during HELL. I didn't have to have every last detail ready for class, just enough to teach a lesson that the kids could make sense of and went toward the objective.

I'd also begun to see cracks in the armor of what had earlier seemed like a truly amazing administration. "Veteran" teachers (at this school, two years qualifies you as a veteran) were beginning to share their insights and stories from past years. I'd begun to notice that while my administrators could often offer criticisms, ideas for improving my practice were lacking. Often when I asked for support to improve on areas they perceived as weakness, I received comments like:

"Listen, we don't have time to stop the train and teach you how to teach. That's what our summer training was for. We need you on board at this point."

Or

"The answer is in your handbook. Remember what we talked about this summer. You need to use those strategies; they're research-based."

When I did receive ideas to help with my instruction, follow-up questions were often met with confusion. For example, it was suggested to me that in order to improve reading comprehension with my ESL students, I use a double-entry journal or an anticipation guide. Having had some familiarity with these literacy strategies from my years in Seattle, I thought it was certainly worth a shot. So I tried them in my classroom with what I felt was significant modeling, practice, and individual work time, and the students got absolutely nothing out of them. When I brought my concerns to my administrators, they seemed confused and suggested that it needed more modeling. When I told them I had done the modeling, they said I must not have done it well enough. When I explained how long I'd worked on it with them for, they told me I'd taken too much time with it. When I asked them to come observe my classroom, they said they'd be there, but then never showed up. This is merely one example.

I soon learned that while most of my administrators were well-versed in educational talking points, mission statements, classroom strategies and discipline strategies, few of them were capable of providing real help in terms of using them in the real-world classroom. I've come to believe that this is largely a result of their lack of classroom experience. They may know what an anticipation guide is and what you're supposed to do with it, but because they probably only gave it a shot once or twice in their three years in the classroom, they have very little practical advice on how to use it in real life.

It was also close to the beginning of Disillusionment that I witnessed a physical altercation between a substitute and a student, both of whom were back in the classroom the next day (I was told the substitute was let go a little over a month later for being caught in another altercation by a student recording it with his cell phone). I was told of horrendous actions on behalf of administrators and quickly began to lose respect for more than one of them. I began to really sense the toxic atmosphere among staff. On more than one occasion, I was told:

"Teachers are the variable in the classroom. They come and go. It doesn't really matter. This school was here before you, and it will be here after you leave. What really matters is the curriculum. If we all teach the curriculum the right way, it really wouldn't matter if you got hit by a bus tomorrow; we'd be able to bring someone in to replace you fairly easily."

Disillusionment turned quickly into Despair in the first weeks of December. Coming back from Thanksgiving break, we were asked to meet even more unrealistic expectations. And as the craziness began to spiral out of control, an event happened that hastened Despair into Anger. It was clear that administrators had collaborated to lower some of my colleagues' IMPACT scores because they were not teaching in a fashion that the administration had prescribed (despite the fact that it was still good teaching and good for the students). Additionally, these administrators seemed out to do the same to me because I voiced my dissenting opinion on a number of issues. It became clear that these people weren't out to make better teachers, they were out to serve their egos.

It was during Disillusionment that I learned to speak up for myself. I'd always been interested in proving to people that I was capable of living up to their standards. I'm usually very cordial and pleasant with my superiors. I like to communicate in a friendly style, and often seek their feedback during discussion to monitor whether they're understanding my viewpoint. However, when I realized that the people who were supposed to be my leaders were taking advantage of that (and even viewed it as a sign of weakness), I learned not to be such a nice guy. Even in my personal life, I've noticed that in daily interactions with other people I'm no longer attempting to be so cordial and pleasing. I stick up for myself and my desires more quickly, and I'm much quicker to disagree with something I think is wrong. Although it took a bad situation to teach me these traits, I believe I'm a better person for it.

My Anger (which lasted over winter break and is described in I Wanna Fight) soon turned back to Despair, which you can read about in Checking Out. It was the post, Checking Out, however, that led to the final, and possibly most important, life lesson I was to learn at that school. Checking Out was linked on Bill Turque's DC Insider blog on January 14th and generated a pretty significant amount of feedback. If my administrators hadn't found my blog and identified me at that point, they certainly knew who I was and what I was saying about them after that. The past week has been a lesson in how vindictive people can be. Most of my administrators refused to look me in the eye when I said hi to them in the hallways. Not a single one of them (except for the head principal who called a closing conference with me on Thursday) even acknowledged I was leaving. In our morning meeting yesterday, some colleagues who were so disappointed by this ability to ignore staff members who were leaving felt compelled to interrupt the end of the meeting by making an announcement that folks were going out for drinks to wish us luck - or in the case of the people leaving, to celebrate.

And on my last day of work, I was told I had an IMPACT post-conference for an observation that occurred two days after I'd turned in my letter of resignation. My evaluator gave me a 1.4, effectively documenting that I was a horribly ineffective teacher. This is despite two previous ratings (before I told them I was leaving and presumably before they found my blog) of above a 3. The evaluation was littered with half-truths and PR talk. It was printed out before I had a chance to discuss or see any of the scores, and it was an hour of questions attempting to trip me up over minute details. When I asked what misunderstandings had been observed, I was told that a few students were off-task, which meant they did not understand what they were supposed to be doing. I later found some blatant fabrications in the notes. I shrugged it off, said thank you and left the office. I'm not really sure what the point of all that was. I suppose they just wanted to put me in my place.

When I look back at all of it, and I consider what it takes to run a really excellent school, I'm reminded of how important it is to have leaders who have experience in the classroom and are capable of creating a community of people (staff and students) that enjoy their work. On the surface, the school I just left is exactly the kind I might have attempted to create myself twenty years into the profession. Everything it does is research-based and informed by current best practices. But despite all of that, its leadership (for the most part) is neither interested nor capable of helping staff members enjoy their work. Administrators find it difficult to smile and have a genuinely positive interaction with staff members. They seem to have had no training in leadership skills and think talking down to people and suggesting that they're racist or inadequate teachers is somehow effective.

I do, however, recognize how hard it is to be in an administrative position in DC. Fine tuning your personal skills is probably the last thing on your mind when your boss tells you that if test scores don't go up, you won't have a job next fall. That's a rough situation for anyone to be in, and it brings a corporate, cut-throat mentality to an industry full of people who want nothing to do with that. Teachers aren't in it for commission or numbers, they're in it for things that aren't quantifiable. So I recognize the difficult balancing act for an administrator who now has to pay attention to both of those things. It must be really, really tough.

So I leave this school having learned a lot. I'm more experienced and little less naive. I'm a much better teacher, and I have a wealth of memories of relationships with some really amazing students and colleagues I will always cherish (I'll write about some of these in the coming days). I don't regret coming here, and I don't regret taking a job there. Although I would never go back, this has been an experience that has helped me grow tremendously.

Now, with a few exciting prospects on the horizon, I just need to figure out what I'll do next, which is ridiculously exciting.

26 comments:

  1. I really appreciate the time you've taken to document your experiences, because the people who don't teach in DCPS really don't understand what we teachers are up against on a daily basis. I feel like I almost had a breakdown last semester, with no sleep, no exercise, graduate school, and no time to eat or think it almost became too much. Is this what Michelle Rhee thinks is good teaching, to work us to the point of exhaustion? It is important for people to realize that it is not just new inexperienced teachers that are worn out but experienced hard-working veteran teachers. Pushing people to the brink is not an effective teaching model, and ultimately will result in an increased turn-over and less effective teaching eventually. I wish you the best of luck, and please keep writing about education. Your voice has been heard and posted by the Washington Post, the truth about what is going on in the schools is only now beginning to come out (and be believed), I sense that the tide is starting to turn.

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  2. Sounds like me last year. Don't worry, even the people at 825 know a teacher can't be reprimanded or retaliated against for blogging. (I would know - they told me.)

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  3. Your school is obviously a hell-hole, but your own narrative reveals personal problems that have nothing to do with your school and would have surfaced in any teaching experience. You worked all weekend on lesson planning? Yeah, I did too, when I was a 21 year old first year teacher who didn't know how to teach or manage my time. Teachers who spend all of their free time working after year one or two need to get more realistic expectations of themselves. Your classroom printer would jam or your PowerPoint presentation would mess up, and you would had a near panic attack? Again, this sounds like first year teacher stuff.

    Listen, I can relate. I'm also a workaholic. Acknowledge it and get some help. Your admin seems totally incompetent, but I don't think even a good principal could have helped you.

    The sad part is that since you are a man, you'll probably get a book deal or lucrative policy job out of this experience. A woman in your position would get some sympathy, but mostly just scorn.

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  4. But Dee, you were and still overall come across as a Rhee supporter and you're DCTF or TFA. Although you've become more critical over time, early on you and DC Teacher Chic were both pushing the Rhee agenda. If you really think that 825 doesn't retaliate, you're still very naive and have a lot to learn, not just about DCPS but the world of work in general. Different rules for different folks!! Believe me, I know. You wouldn't believe what is done or said behind closed doors.

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  5. tell us, anon, under cover of your anonymity, what does go on behind closed doors.

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  6. So glad you got out of that toxic hellhole. You say that a veteran teacher in your now former school is anyone with over 2 years' experience? Quite telling. And for someone as hard-working as dedicated as you to get a 1.4 on IMPACT after getting over a 3 previously? So suspicious. I don't want this to sound cold, but going back to Seattle may be a good option, to a school where you were appreciated.

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  7. Anon at 3:13: I can't help but take issue with your comment. You say that it sounds like I had personal problems; I was dealing with new teacher stuff; even a good principal couldn't have helped me.

    I can see where you're coming from when you suggest that learning to manage your time is an important skill to develop. However, when you seem to imply that once a new teacher learns to manage their time, they should be able to lead a normal 9-5 life suggests that you have little experience teaching. While I realize that four years teaching is still new to the profession, I'm not brand-spanking new. I've learned as well as anyone to manage my time. It has been my experience, however, that any time a teacher confronts two new classes with no curriculum provided for them and a new school environment (especially one that holds teachers accountable for twice as much as any of the other schools I've ever worked at) that provides little to no support, it's easy for anyone to burn out.

    This is my third year being a "new" teacher. I did it in TN, I did it one year in Seattle, and I've now done it in DC. I'm preparing to do it again when I find a new job teaching in August.

    The best teachers I know (those who have been doing it for 10-plus years) still come in early, leave late, and take work home - and they have the curriculum down.

    So I absolutely take issue with your post. I also have to say your remark about me dealing with "personal problems" sounds eerily similar to remarks made to my colleagues by one of our administrators. Any time they disagreed with his ciriticism of their teaching, they automatically had personal problems. I'd say that was probably outside of his professional competency to judge. It's also outside of yours.

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  8. Personally, RE, I think you were going a little overboard on accountability. Having a lot of data to show what you've done doesn't make you a better teacher, and doesn't in and of itself help children learn. It's great that you're conscientious, but I hope you don't go overboard to prove yourself at your next job.

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  9. Kings: I'm beginning to agree. While there's a huge drive toward teachers creating data-driven teaching, creating the data ends up being far more work than what it's worth. As one of my colleagues has said in his blog, if it takes you longer to compile the data than you're actually going to spend looking at it, it's probably not worth it.

    This is definitely something I will take from this experience, but I would also add that even without the data creation, excellent classroom teaching in urban environments is easily enough work for three or four people.

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  10. Everyone who works in DCPS knows that school is a crazy place to work, it doesn't matter how good you are. I'm working with an ex-employee from that school and he has lots of stories to tell, so RE is not alone. Also, retaliation happens all the time in DCPS - get real.

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  11. I've been following your story for a while, and really appreciate it. My school is nowhere near the stress levels of your school (and I had friends that had experience there), but so much of what you say resonates. It's also sad when I have those moments thinking I'm going to change things. How do I weigh that against the retaliation that I KNOW would come from my administrators (who thus far have given me good ratings on my observations). Keep up the good fight, whatever you decide to do.

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  12. What is most troubling to me are the "teacher is just a variable" comments. Do we need to go further than this in understanding why education in our country is not what it should be?

    Reflective Educator, I am so sorry you had to go through this but relieved for you that it is over. I believe that you, and other teachers, are experiencing such disrespect because of the economy. Suddenly there are many people who want to teach in urban areas and districts realize they can keep costs down by encouraging turnover. I wish you could qualify for some kind of damages. If anyone assaulted you on the job, it might not be too late to file a report.

    My expectation is this: Soon the recession will be over and there will no longer be captive women to take positions in cities like DC. Once again these districts will be begging for teachers, but after the way you and others have been treated, few well-qualified people will apply.

    As for you, I hope you continue to help other teachers by continuing with this blog. I foresee a great future for a young man of exceptional talent. I do have one suggestion: Please consider changing the name of this blog to "Reflective Educator."

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  13. It sure would be nice if there were a way for the angry, mistreated teachers to rise up together so that fear of retaliation wouldn't be be an issue.

    It would have to be organized and involve everyone "signing on" in some way to support each other, stand up to their administrations, risk getting the bad evaluation and use it it as proof of retaliation for speaking up.

    Sort of what like RE did on his own, but with safety in numbers.

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  14. I have wanted to post more about my school, but can't as some "brown-nosers" would throw me under the bus, since they read my blog....dumb of me to have trusted them....anyway...long story short....I've been at my school TWENTY years and this is the 1st year I have considered leaving....I haven't even written a resume in 20 years....(this is the 3rd year to this new admin. group....before that we had the same for 17 years....THEY WERE AMAZING, but retired).....I see a lot of what you talk about in them....I think it's time for me to move on too. GOOD LUCK. I am now a blog follower of yours....

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  15. Yes, there is a way to fight and here it is:

    First of all, teachers must understand that they don't give up their civil rights at the schoolhouse door. Any rights enjoyed by any American can be enjoyed by you. To be explicit, you have a right not to be assaulted on the job. You have a right to a safe and non-hostile working environment.

    Secondly, look to the teachers who are already outspoken. These are your leaders.

    Encourage all your "just-about-to-retire or quit" teachers to be active. Reflective Educator can help.

    If your union does not have a good attorney, ask the state or national union to help hire someone good.Ask this person how to protect your right to assembly and free speech so that your job is not jeopardized because of what you say outside of school hours.Be careful to document everything and try to have witnesses. You don't need a lot of people; five asssertive teachers and one good attorney can accomplish a lot.

    Establish a relationship with sympathetic journalists (e.g. Bill Turque), state commissioners, prominant people (including teachers who might be rich or related to VIPs) politicians and other people who don't like the way DC teachers are being treated. (I strongly suspect Mr.and Mrs Obama are appalled by what is happening in DC. Write to them.) A lot of people do care. For example, I live in CA but I have already donated money to a DC teachers fund.

    Once all these things are in place, agree to do the following:

    Observe and record all hostile acts against teachers at your school;

    If an administrator comes into your classroom in a hostile manner, stop what you are doing, grab a clipboard, look at the clock, and record;

    Report EVERY unlawful act you observe to the proper authorities (e.g. denying services to disabled children, keeping information about disabled children from parents, pressuring a teacher to withhold information about abuse of teachers and students, pressuring teachers to teach items on state tests, etc.). Put everything in writing but always have the attorney or trusted leader check what you've written before sending it;

    Report every mistake made by administrators to his or her superiors. Send copies to members of board of education and city council;

    Learn the legal definition of a hostile working environment and document evidence of such;

    Report any potentially embarrassing situations (Teacher assaulted, principal didn't report child abuse, etc.) to the newspaper as well as to the authorities;

    Be active in your union, whether you agree with them or not. In my state, it's illegal to retaliate against a union rep;

    Discuss ways to reduce stress and share with each other. For example, in my last year of teaching, when I was lacking in energy, I found ways to cut down on home preparation considerably. Use your imagination for this;

    If possible, get a job in another district, especially if you are young. Warn all your friends to stay away as well. This will speak more loudly than anything and will help other teachers;

    Make friends with the students' parents by calling them to report GOOD things;

    Do whatever else you can think of to let administration know that you demand to be treated with respect and fairness.

    All of the above will help the children because a teacher treated with gratitude and respect is usually a lot more effective;

    Start tomorrow by demanding answers to Rhee's allegations that the laid-off teachers were child abusers. That's your start and it's a powerful one;

    Good luck, teachers. Thanks for all you do. Remember that all this is happening because of the recession.

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  16. Hey, RE - the comments at 6:14 sound like a good plan - maybe you can help other teachers pull it off now that you've got some time on your hands.

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  17. To Reflective Educator: Just wanted to say that I had an experience similar to yours when I taught in a low-income California middle school several years ago. Just remember that it's not your fault: Working in this type of school is a daunting challenge for all teachers (especially when the administration is not on your side). Good luck with the rest of your career and keep up the interesting blog postings!

    -Attorney DC

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  18. RE, thanks for all you do. I have a friend who teaches at your (ex) school's associated middle school. She is *phenomenal* but is considering leaving the profession of teaching entirely after this year. So sad.

    Another friend of ours in a doctoral clinical psych program was listening to us talk about our experiences in DCPS (I teach at another middle school), and her response to what we were saying was both shocking and illuminating: We were apparently exhibiting what's commonly known as "battered women's syndrome." That is, we were internalizing guilt or blame for our circumstances, doubting our instincts about what we see as right or wrong or acceptable or unacceptable or ethical or unethical, and a reluctance to leave because "no one else will take us" because we're that incompetent. Linda/Retired/Teacher may be on to something, because I'm now convinced that to teach in DCPS is truly to experience emotional abuse on a daily basis.

    I came to the unfortunate conclusion that if I want to stay with teaching (and I do), I have to leave DCPS. Perhaps I'll have the pleasure of teaching elsewhere with you, RE. Cheers!

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  19. Yes, teachers DO experience something similar to battered women's syndrome. I can remember saying that to some colleagues, who were emotionally battered at work and then made to feel that it was their fault. However, some DO fight back and I'm proud to say I was one of them.

    In 2003 I had given a little boy a "time-out" in another teacher's room. His father came to pick him up early and went into a rage when he saw his son excluded from computer lab. In front of my whole class the man (a convicted felon) threatened me. He then went to the principal's office to report me. The principal tried to make me feel as though I had done something wrong and actually wanted to place a letter in my file!

    "I am the victim" I informed the principal "and I will write the letter about YOU."

    I took the next day off to write the letter with the help of the union rep. The letter was sent to each member of the board of education, the president of the teacher's union and the superintendent. I also insisted that the principal call the police so I could file a complaint against the parent, which the principal was required to do by law (in CA it is a misdemeaner to threaten a teacher in front of her class). I went to court and made a big deal out of the whole thing and found out the man had a long criminal record. My student teacher was a witness to the man's frightening behavior. I had a feeling her college would tell her to stay out of it (which they did) so I got a written statement from her immediately after the event.

    Oh, the satisfaction that I got from speaking out!!! The principal was transferred, the child was placed in another school, and the man was banned from all campuses. The principal and the vice principal had to write letters of apology to me.

    Fight, teachers. You are not powerless!

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  20. Linda - that story is awesome! Great job!

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  21. Anon of 8:07 - excellent but sad insight from your clinical psych friend.

    Are you young? and/or a relatively new teacher? It's sad no matter what your age, but more poignant, I think, if you've gotten so beaten down so early in your career.

    There has got to be a way for you and people like to to speak out. this is craziness - torturing teachers as if this is somehow in the best interests of children.

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  22. This could be an opportune time to execute a plan like the one mentioned above, while the Chancellor is losing credibility and focusing a lot of time and energy on her rescuing her image.

    the general public is ready to hear the truth now I think, and won't give Rhee the usual pass they have in the past whenver she raised the spector of "bad teachers."

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  23. Kings- This is 8:07 Anon. We're both 2nd year teachers. I agree that it's sad, which is why I said that unfortunately, because I want to continue teaching, I have to get out of DCPS. I hope my friend also comes around, because like I mentioned, she's passionate and inspired and the kids love her. Thanks for the encouragement!

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  24. Anon - thanks for getting back to me. Here's more encouragement - speak out - don't be afraid that if people find out you've criticize DCPS it will make you look bad to a new employer. The situation in DC is uniquely bad and it's a unique opportunity for people like you to help keep this sort of thing from happening in other districts. Lemons into lemonade!

    People are to used to teachers being meek and mild and to not fight back. The future of education and our children is too important to denigrate teachers this way.

    DOn't take it anymore.

    Onward!

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  25. Get a job on the Hill working on the revision of NCLB. Congress needs former teachers to participate in this effort and provide a reality check.

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  26. I'm a DCPS teacher in my third year at an elementary school near Logan Circle. I am definitely compassionate towards the experience you had in DC. It's quite reminiscent of the first year I had teaching at a charter in NE, which was absolutely terrible, and about the closest I think I'll ever come to hell, though I've taught all over the world, in war torn and impoverished countries, etc. :(

    However, I do have hope, despite the flaws and farce in the current system. I am bracing myself for the ever-harsher Impact evaluations, perhaps because I did quite well last year (straight 4s from my MEs). I just try to go in every day and do the best I can for the kids without over-reaching and burning out, which I did when I started teaching almost eight years ago.

    I try to relax, use everything I have learned, and be creative and caring. I reinvent my routines and units every year based on data, student levels, and to keep myself engaged. I use and keep data, but also document 'informal' and anecdotal data as well. I use all the PD support and materials available from DCPS and fortunately have an absolutely wonderful team I work with.

    That said, I don't think we are going to make AYP this year, nor the next, despite our student gains. I'll probably be looking for a new job, whether I like it or not! :)

    The best of luck in all your future endeavors - I'm glad to see you stuck with teaching. It's an adventure! But once it gets in your blood...! :)

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