Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 09 2011

What happened to teaching?

Today was going to be a great day. Laying The Foundations is a wonderful day of professional development—it’s the least relevant of any of them, but it’s FUN. We spend the entire day just doing math problems, with only  minimal discussion of “strategies” and “tricks” and blah blah ideal-classroom blah. For a day, I just get to focus on the fact that I enjoy doing math.   …Or so I thought.

A little background about Laying The Foundations:
1) It’s a three-year program; we’re currently in the second year.
2) the entire math department attends.
3) Because of #1 and #2, substitutes are arranged by the front office months in advance.

Yesterday during eighth period, the Instruction Coordinator for the math department knocked at my door, extremely disgruntled and not hiding it, and told me to “double-check” that my substitute had been called in. I did so, and surprise! It hadn’t. Not surprising at all, actually. I’ve come to expect that nothing goes as planned at my school. So I called in and reserved the sub myself. No biggie.

Well, this morning at about 9:45 (i.e. about an hour and a half into our training—and the school day), one of my coworkers gets a call from the sub coordinator in the front office, who says “We don’t have a sub for either of you. You’ll have to come back.”

According to the gossip that ensued, Ms. Sub Coordinator and Ms. Instruction Coordinator had “gotten into it” at some point, and now Ms. Sub Coordinator simply didn’t call in any substitutes at Ms. Instruction Coordinator’s request. And the sub that I had called in had mysteriously been transferred to sub for a teacher in another department.

What happened to teaching? How did we get here? In what other “professional” environment is it okay for someone to simply refuse to fulfill their professional responsibilities, all because of some personal conflict? And it’s not just that—teachers text and engage in loud side-conversations during meetings, make lewd jokes and derogatory comments, gossip ruthlessly behind each others’ backs, ignore deadlines, make jokes at their students’ expense … when did any of this become okay? And how?

On Monday, I was pulled out because of two back-to-back RTI meetings with parents. I returned to my classroom halfway through third period to discover that no one had showed up to fill in. NO ONE. I was sitting right  next to my AP when someone confirmed over the radio that they’d made sure my room was covered. So today, for the second time this week, no one was in the room to cover first period.

I was livid. I was wearing jeans, had no lesson plan, and had been planning all week to use this afternoon to catch up on other things. At one point, I did put on my asset-based thinking cap and acknowledged that a completely unprepared, frazzled teacher is better for my kids than a room full of angst-y teenagers left to wreak havoc with no teacher at all…  but still. COME. ON.

This is why I snort when I read about people who say TFA “insults the profession” because we teach without having an education background. “The profession” is doing PLENTY to insult itself.

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    Region
    San Antonio
    Grade
    High School
    Subject
    Math

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    “The minute you think of giving up, think of the reason you held on so long.” - John Maxwell

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