Friday, April 13, 2007

Post from Lindsay


Dear B's Readers,

I was very flattered when B asked me to guest blog on her site. As you read this narrative, I ask that you keep in mind that there are three sides to every story, and this is my side. If you want benefit of the doubt, best intentions or any of that hooey, go read something else.

She fired me without ever having seen me teach.

I was hired by aforementioned Principal Three. I had exactly six weeks of teacher education, in an intensive summer program, and I hadn't actually been in a fifth grade classroom since I was ten years old. In an attempt to make my first teaching job possible, he gave me a reduced class size (20 instead of 35), and allowed me to partner with a colleague from my credential program who also had a reduced class size.

I had a supervisor from my credential program who made weekly visits and evaluations of my progress. I taught full-time and spent nine hours every Saturday learning how to be an effective teacher in an urban setting. (As an aside, I think my internship/credentialing program was one of the very best in the state. Overwhelming and stressful, yet also terribly relevant and supportive.) And I had B there, right across the playground, offering teacher materials, discipline support and countless other helpful things first year teachers don't even know that they need. My point is, I was well-supported by people who could teach me how to be effective.

Principal Four started at our school in January, when we returned from the winter break. Two weeks later, she filed with the district to have me removed from my position.

Of course, I wouldn't hear anything about it until I got my first piece of registered mail, when I arrived home from work on March 15th.

To be clear, I have no memory of significant events that may have justified her decision to fire me. No disciplinary action was ever taken or discussed. I never received a stern warning, a friendly reminder, or any feedback on my teaching, aside from a very positive evaluation from the Vice Principal (Principal Two).

Principal Four is Evil Reason #1: When I asked why I had been fired, she flat-out lied to my face and said that it didn't come from her, but the district. After weeks of unreturned phone calls to the district, they confirmed that my release had originated with the principal.

Teachers Unions are Evil Reason #1: The union was unable to offer any protection, as first and second year teachers have absolutely no job protection whatsoever. Even a McDonald's employee can file a wrongful termination suit. In exchange for life-time job security for anyone who makes it past year 2, new teachers have less job security than a subway musician--as long as they show up, they have a job.

After two months of requesting justification for my release, I sat down for a meeting with Principal Four. Among the reasons she sited were the fact that I had used 7 of my ten allotted sick days. Frankly, I don't think I should have to defend myself for taking sick days that were allocated to me, but I'll do it anyway. In your first year of teaching, your immune system isn't is strong as it will become. In your first year of your credential, there are vast amounts of reading and research projects to write. In my first year of teaching, my boyfriend's mom was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. And I had taken seven days off. Only 70% of what I was allowed to take. Hm.

Another reason that Principal Four gave for my release is that I provided a video for my students to watch while there was a substitute teacher. While I recognize the importance of maximizing instructional time...

Principal Four is Evil Reason #2: ...the next day the entire staff received a memo suggesting strategies for keeping students engaged as we approached the end of the school yeay, and guess what was on the list. Yes! Watching movies! What a phenomenal guess!!

By the end of the school year, I had interviewed and received a job offer at another school in the district. Unfortunately, I was unable to accept the offer. The union's phenomenal negotiating resulted in the district compromising by accepting my resignation, rather than pin me with the non-re-elect status for the rest of my career.

Principal Four is Evil Reason #3: You've already heard the tortilla stand story, so I'll add this observation to the mix. The three individuals (including myself) who she fired from our school were the only teachers at that time with the following two things in common: we were white and we were not tenured.

Plus, she fired me without ever having seen me teach.

You do the math.

Epilogue: My next job was in an equally dysfunctional district, but with a far more functional school culture and management. I learned a ton, grew as a teacher, and was betrayed by the system there as well. It only took one more year of teaching (this one in San Diego) before I quit. Maybe I'll go back, maybe I won't.

Though I don't post there anymore, you can read all about my teaching adventures, opinions, and political analysis at http://www.insideteaching.com.

My regular (if you could call it that) blog is at http://lindsaydayton.blogspot.com/

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, makes you think about becoming a teacher in oakland. They sound ruthless.
Thanks for sharing, Lindsay.