Monday, August 27, 2007

So I'm a Mom AND a Teacher

teaching certificateWe've moved to Texas thanks to Uncle Sam, and our eighth grade daughter's first day of school has made quite an impression on her.

She was picked up late by the bus (the driver of which either drove the route incorrectly or followed a pick-up schedule that was changed by the school without notifying parents), which was completely full, three kids per seat. She got to school and dealt with the inevitable "we're a no-nonsense school" attitude from each of her teachers (this is a middle school that had serious "troubles" three years ago, to include drugs, gang violence, etc)... found out that there are six whopping people in band, and she's one of only two girls in it. When she told her English teacher that no, there were no "Mead Composition notebooks" in stores anywhere (yes, we looked at Target, K-Mart, Walmart, and Office Max on BOTH sides of town) her teacher's response was "well, you will get some." Ah, how pleasant. There were so many ticked off parents at the PX and Target today after school because many of their children brought home additional school supply lists from individual teachers after many of us thought the list we had been given at orientation had been rather.... comprehensive. Our daughter brought home TWO additional supply lists, and then gave me the papers she was dreading, the "these are my rules, don't break 'em 'cause these are the heavy duty consequences" notes from teachers who wanted parent signatures on them. I had to correct the note from the English teacher because the grammar she used fell short of "meeting" MY "standards" (remember folks, I'm a kindergarten teacher).

All this after yesterday's El Paso newspaper crowed on and on about the 35-45% of teacher new hires this year that DO NOT HAVE TEACHING DEGREES. They did the quickie "teacher certification" through an "alternative certification program." So bankers, engineers, etc. are now teaching fourth graders. First graders. Kindergartners. High school kids. And I, as a teacher with a degree in Elementary Education, with twelve years teaching experience, and four state teaching licenses, have not been hired. Because I cost 7,000-10,000$ MORE to hire than these "new alternate certification" teachers do. And the main reason the alternate program teachers WANTED to take "substantial pay cuts" by quitting their original vocations to become teachers? SO THEY'D HAVE SUMMERS OFF.

What teacher told any of them they'd get their summers "off?" My Lord. And I'm guessing you wouldn't let a kindergarten teacher who changed her mind and decided she'd "try her hand at being a surgical doctor" into her own practice after obtaining quickie medical licensure in a year-and-a-half's time!

So our girl questioned us as to why all she and the other students heard today were the lists of punitive actions that would be taken against students for infractions such as: being tardy ONCE, "challenging teachers' authority," and not having the exact notebook paper a teacher requested. Apparently many of the teachers at her school have been told that if they yell and appear serious and hard-assed, they have AUTHORITY and will be given RESPECT. Our daughter is *not* a problem child. She aces all of her classes and is a whiz at math. She enjoys humor, kindness, silliness. In short, she's a young girl. More child than woman. And I guess she's outnumbered. She has always had favorite teachers. Favorite subjects. Favorite pieces of music to play. Hobbies, giggles, and still likes Disney pre-teen shows. Up until this year, she has always ENJOYED school. ENJOYED learning. ENJOYED building relationships with those who have helped her on this trek so far. Now she is under the impression that teachers here don't care, don't want to care, and just expect compliance. I'm hoping this will not be a long year.

All this from the school district that has produced seniors in high school (that I have personally assessed during my brief stint at the learning center) that don't know how the prefixes "uni, bi, and tri" change words. Seriously.

We don't want to be stationed here after the SGM Academy is over. And we will certainly not be retiring here.

5 comments:

  1. Hey, if you are in San Antonio, you should send Miguel Guhlin a note about this.

    Things are going much better for me with my son's teacher. She is new, and very interest (which beats cynical and mean any day). I even helped her start a blog to communicate with parents.

    P.S. I've tagged you for Blog Day 2007 ;-)

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  2. Michaele, I've been thinking about this one...since one of my kids started high school this year. She's in an "advanced" English class in which the teacher expresses her high expectations by threatening students with bad grades. These are all kids who are self-motivated to begin with.

    It breaks my heart to see this. I wonder how much of this kind of teacher behavior is tied to the culture of accountability that we're creating in schools now, where kids are seen as "the problem."

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  3. Apparently it's spreading- my sister has called me several times this week from Georgia, asking me for help with my youngest nephew. He started kindergarten, and came home on the first day of school with four frownie faces on a note. He then threw up. Day two? Another "bad" note. And he threw up. Day three? A request for a parent conference because he couldn't write his name (for the record, both his first and last names have eleven letters... EACH), and additional time spent in the bathroom. By day four, she'd called a conference with the teacher, her aide, the "team leader," the principal, and the counselor. Was told that it was ONLY her son that was distracting the other students from their work in class with his "excessive talking." Day five, today, saw her withdrawing her five-year-old from school and looking up homeschool curriculum supplies/info online. Yep, apparently her son doesn't make the grade in kindergarten because he behaves like..... a five year old. Sigh.

    It bothers me that this is happening. And it GREATLY bothers me that those who should know better are the ones inflicting this type of emotional threat upon not just our students, but our children.

    It's a very good thing that "beam-me-up-Scotty" technology hasn't been invented yet, because you'd be reading about the demise of my blogging and teaching career after I miraculously appeared in a kindergarten classroom in Georgia and started "frownie facing" the teacher!

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  4. All adults have plenty of experience at being students, which causes many of them to believe that they are highly qualified "experts" in education and pedagogy. It sounds like district (or would it be State?) officials perpetuate this kind of faulty thinking when they don't provide an alternate certification program based on strong theoretical principles. Are these new teachers simply thrown into classrooms and left to fend for themselves?

    Sounds like you have some very interesting stories-- albeit at the expense of your children-- yet to come.

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  5. You're tagged for a bookmark meme: http://mizmercer.edublogs.org/2007/09/03/bookmark-meme/

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As always, thank you for your comments, tips, suggestions and questions!