Seniority

A fellow teacher sent me a message about getting my thing about merit pay, but what about seniority gumming up the works.  What about career teachers who stopped evolving YEARS ago and really weren’t effective. She was frustrated to have been, more than once, the most recent hire at a school and then the first released.  She also felt that good teachers were often sacrificed for bad.  She didn’t draw the line in the sand and ask what I thought, she was just commiserating.  However, I agree.

I do believe the time has come for teachers’ unions throughout the United States to adopt a “Physician, heal thyself!” policy.  While she was focusing more on seniority, my concern of late has been how to get rid of ineffective teachers regardless of seniority.  The fact is, in California teachers have “due process” once they are made permanent.  This means they can’t just be fired because you don’t like them. They have to be given a chance to know what isn’t working, get coaching, and show improvement.  Before you balk, consider that this is actually a good thing.  It’s very hard on students to change teachers mid-year, this type of action tanks school morale, and we often don’t have a large pool of amazingly effective people to choose from.  Firing someone for being merely contrary or not buying your dogma doesn’t make a bad teacher.  However, the conversation needs to be opened, had, and a consensus come to regarding what DOES make a bad teacher.  Are we to keep all teachers because the only way to get rid of one is if they are ineffective in the classroom?  BTW, not ALL teachers are classroom teachers.

I believe teachers, teachers’ unions, and administrators (no politicians invited) need to sit down and really consider what makes an effective teacher.  What do schools need, and how do teachers factor into that?  Mind you, you can say you want teachers to work 12 hour days, but that’s why we have a union.  None of us are willing to give up our civil rights, our free time, or sacrifice our families to improve student test scores. It’s not fair to expect it or to ask for it.

In my mind, teachers need to be on campus 8 hours daily — especially in California where the requirement to have 150 hours of professional development was removed from the teacher credential renewal process.  At one time it was considered that teachers took classes after school.  This is not often the case here.  I feel that teachers need to be available both to families and colleagues.  If school starts at 8:00, you should be there at 7:30.  You shouldn’t be rushing to leave before 4:00. Being on campus for 8 hours  gives the clear message that teachers work a REAL job, like OTHER PEOPLE.  Mind you, I arrive around 7 and often don’t leave until 5, as do many of my colleagues.  However, the ones showing up at 8:10 and leaving at 2:45 are HURTING our public image.  We need to acknowledge that.

Teachers need to meet with their colleagues and work as teams in grade levels and across grade levels.  The old adage about closing one’s door may have worked 20-30 years ago, but it doesn’t move schools forward. Teachers are vial to the continued growth of the school.  They often drive programs and keep the school culture in place.  Everyone needs help.  Sitting back and making it only about you and the classroom is ignorant, short-sighted, and egotistical.

Teachers need to learn to work with their principals.  You don’t have to be a principal’s best friend, but you should be looking to that person for direction and guidance.  You should feel you can go to that person with improvement ideas and be supported.  If that’s an issue, then avenues need to be put into place to make sure that the principal is also tied to school improvement (more than being top down and demanding it).

My other pet peeve is when teachers are late — to anything, but especially to the start of the school day.  Rushing in with wet hair, disorganized, not ready for the day tells parents something we don’t want them to hear.  It says you don’t care.  They extrapolate that across a school.  It is negative publicity to the nth degree.  No other job would accept it.  It’s not safe for students to go unsupervised.  Why should we?

Now is the time for us to come together, decide what’s right, and put together an evaluation that doesn’t allow for weak teachers to slide by.  To continue doing so creates morale issues, poorly prepared students, and dissension throughout the country regarding our profession.

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