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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Florida Teacher: Get out of my room!

From the Diane Ravitch blog:

I have no doubt that the whole point of what the conservative Republican NC legislature has done and what the “reformers” nationwide are doing is make sure that as many of us as possible leave the profession so that the NEA and AFT are ruined and, so their thinking goes, the Democratic party by extension.

The sad irony is that the neo-liberals in the Democratic party are happy to help this happen; they are more than willing to trade union support for corporate and Wall Street support and let teachers and public schools die in the process and the two political parties become one party that represents the plutocracy.

My Florida school received an “F” last year on Florida’s insane School Report Card scam. We have been in session for exactly 10 days. I have been “observed” daily since the 6th day of school, as have all of my colleagues. The district and the state are sending in these “observers” to collect “data” so they can create a “reform plan” for our school (and the 9 other Title I schools in our district that received “F” grades this past year).

I can’t begin to explain how annoying, humiliating, and nerve-wracking these anonymous and silent observations become, day after day. I feel that my first graders and me are fish in an aquarium or animals in the wild while these cold, nameless “observers” appear and disappear, marking down everything we say and do on their clipboards without ever acknowledging that we are human beings and not scientific oddities.

There is no allowance for humanity at all in this system. No bad days for teacher or kids and no lousy lessons that fall flat are allowed. With the Danielson rubric it is easy to make sure that every lesson is lousy in some way. Although they delude themselves into thinking that they are there to “help” us in reality all they do is raise tensions and create animosity and fear. I guess that’s in keeping under our newly revealed surveillance society and the NSA.

I loathe these people and wonder how a teacher can abandon their original mission of educating children to become a member of the reform inquisition where they spend their days working to end the careers of their former colleagues and providing the evidence to deliver the “death penalty” as NY governor Cuomo calls it, to long-term neighborhood schools.

Although I have dearly loved my profession for nearly 2 decades now I honestly don’t know how much longer I can continue to work under these circumstances. The pressure to speak up and tell these people to get out of my room and leave me alone builds every day. My blood pressure problems and stomach ulcers are returning after a summer free from stress. I want to teach my children to pick up a clipboard and sit in a circle around these hated people to make little marks on papers while staring coldly and unfeelingly at them for 40 minutes to see how it makes them feel.

Every morning I tell myself that I’m doing it for the children but that mantra is becoming tattered and worn out and doesn’t make it any easier when I know that my classroom will be a daily exercise in humiliation, degradation, disrespect, a source of mistrust in my own professionalism and abilities and that I am forced to actively participate in my own destruction.

The people who are “observing” and controlling me all chose to leave the classroom and quite teaching for one reason or another. None of them have achieved any of the things that they claim I must now do — overcome lack of English speaking ability, physical, mental, and emotional handicaps, and extreme poverty and oftentimes neglect and abuse to produce the ever-rising test scores the state demands.

The district eliminated our school librarian’s position this year. We have little to no money to purchase materials to help these kids catch up due to an austerity budget. Seven of our colleagues were laid off last June and only three of those positions will be restored. Everything being done to us is designed to prevent us from succeeding. None of it is helpful or supportive — it is all punitive, shaming, and soul-destroying.

And still I go in every morning and smile at my six year olds and read them stories all while I am dying inside and living in fear, anxiety, and under tremendous stress. I want out and I know that’s what the reformers want most of all — for me to leave just a few years shy of a good pension that they won’t have to pay. The question has become “Is this job worth sacrificing my good health and mental stability for?” and my answer has become “No.”

I don’t want to give up and let them “win” but I don’t want to destroy myself either. This twice former “teacher of the year” and National Board Certified teacher with 2 masters degrees has just about thrown in the towel and that makes me feel even worse but I can’t maintain my best work under these circumstances and I can’t give my children 100% when the “observers” are sucking out my soul, hour by hour, either.


  1. So well said -- and who bothers to listen?

  2. This teacher deserves a medal.

  3. What a sad situation they have created.