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Teachermom65 Teachermom65 is offline
 
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Jobs, Teacher Performance and Career Changers
Old 12-16-2009, 06:07 AM
 
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Yesterday, I spoke with a good friend of mine from my former IT life. We both decided to switch careers and go into teaching at the same time in our lives. Last year, my friend was lucky enough to obtain a leave replacement position that also counted as her student teaching - so she was paid to student teach. This year, she was not able to find a teaching job or even a leave replacement. Like me, she was forced to sub.

Then, my friend's phone rang. Someone from a small group of us who all worked together in IT land wanted her to work part time from home (like I used to do). My friend said yes because it's three times the money as a regular teaching position (probably 8x more than subbing!) and less work. I can honestly say that this made me very sad. I am positive that my friend is a great teacher. She is extremely sharp, funny and no nonsense. She dealt with the kids well and enjoyed teaching. However, when people get paid very little and there are few job opportunities, it drives talented teachers who have options back to other careers. I *really* hope this doesn't happen to me. I worked so hard to get my teaching certification and I love teaching. I hope that someday I'll be in a position to spend a ridiculous amount of time preparing lessons. At this point, I'll be happy to even get a job interview! Some of the difficulty obtaining teaching jobs is with the economy right now...but that is only part of the problem.

Meanwhile, I see some really bad teachers remain ensconced in their careers as they are protected by powerful unions. I subbed twice for a shop teacher who literally photocopies the same lesson plan every time I sub for him (which is often because he calls out sick frequently). The lesson is the same everytime - show a movie that the kids have already seen several times! WTH? Seeing this is very demoralizing for someone coming from the business world where performance (based on 360 and other evaluation frameworks) determines who remains in their jobs. In my biz experience, the "low hanging fruit" is obvious and gets removed every year or so. Of course, that didn't happen without management trying to help the person rise up to a level of desired performance. It doesn't make good biz sense to have turnover for petty reasons. It costs a lot of money to train people and it costs departmental or group integrity if the team is frequently changing. Having said that, if someone was in their position a long time and stopped performing, they were not given a free pass to keep on doing nothing. Poor performing teachers undermine the overall views of administrators and the public towards teachers in general.

I cannot tell you how many times I've heard that "teachers don't have to work very hard...and that teachers are overpaid". I strongly disagree with both statements, but I see how people may draw those conclusions if they experience a teacher like I did with my daughter two years ago. The other moms and I kept track of the number of days she was out. It averaged over 1 day per week for the entire school year. There were many, many weeks when she was out more than one day. She was entitled to these sick days due to her contract. But, who is looking out for the kids who experienced a plethora of subs and disrupted learning ALL YEAR LONG. The principal should have the authority to put the teacher on disability so the kids could have a consistent teacher. However, that did not happen because the teacher had a poor work ethic (she was burned out and ready to retire) and the union backed her. She was not suffering from any health issues that could explain all of the absences. Bottom line is that a dedicated teacher who shows up every day is paid the same amount of money as the teacher who *consistently* calls in sick every week. That does not seem right. Perhaps she was burned out due to all of the pressures on teachers (see other posts in this forum about teachers who are quitting). That is another can of worms that needs to be addressed (administrators who keep dumping responsibilities on teachers thus causing burnout).

I really don't understand why teachers and administrators are so threatened by the notion of performance-driven reviews, promotions, tenure, etc. I think teachers should have career path opportunities that they do not have now...but to get that, I think they should be more open to a "free market" system that is transparent and has all sorts of checks and balances. In my opinion, this would improve the overall quality of teachers and schools. I think administrators should also have 360 reviews. I know this is controversial and that many teachers feel threatened by the idea of performance driven pay or promotions. However, workers in most industries endure this everyday. In the vast majority of cases, it is more fair and offers better overall incentives in comparison to a "protected" type of performance system. For the record, I don't think that test scores should be given too much weight in a performance-driven framework. Any reliance on student test scores would have to be aggregated over a period of time to allow for class variances; ie the teachers who excel in working with special ed kids would end up getting punished if those kids have lower test scores. That would not be constructive, so a better method of factoring in aggregated test scores should be used.

I am not anti-union. I believe we have unions because workers get exploited. Teachers need to be protected from lawsuits and from malicious parents or administrators. They need advocates (which can be from the union or otherwise). However, it is not a good thing when either party at the table (either the unions or the "management") holds a disproportionate amount of the cards and protects teachers (or administrators) who are not pulling their weight. When I see unreliable, uncommited teachers who sometimes do not even enjoy the kids taking up "slots" when people like my friend and I cannot get teaching jobs, it is frustrating. I see this as indicative of a systemic problem that needs to be solved for the good of the kids. Changing the review process and allowing teachers to collaborate with administrators to set - and be measured by - performance objectives is a good place to start changing the system.

I hung up the phone after talking with my friend and felt very discouraged for the students who will not have her as a teacher. I think the education system is really a mess and it stacks the deck away from career-changers who are trying to break into the field. I absolutely LOVE being around kids and I very much enjoy teaching. I want desperately to get a teaching job. I would *much* rather teach kids than read computer code. Sometimes, I really wonder if I will ever get a chance to have my own classroom. The reality is that I cannot afford to sub forever. On many levels, subbing is not a long term option. It can be demoralizing and the pay is ridiculous (an average of about $10 an hour where I live). For this reason, I decided that I will no longer sub 5 days a week. It leaves me feeling drained, unfufilled and anonymous. We had per diem IT contractors at my old job who were treated like gold in comparison to how subs are treated! I really don't understand it.

I am curious to receive constructive, respectful comments about the issues of teacher performance reviews; unions; or career changers who seek teaching jobs.I know the subject of unions is potentially explosive, so that is why I overtly mentioned having a respectful dialogue.


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Just quickly
Old 12-16-2009, 07:00 AM
 
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Good admin with documentation and a good paper trail can get rid of a bad teacher and union or no union, tenure or no tenure would never be an issue. The union tells us at every meeting "we are there for you but we cannot protect you if you are not doing your job..."

Secondly, as a sub, the "snapshot" you get as you visit a day here and a day there and in and out of several classes, grade levels, etc. may not be an accurate portrayal of the school or teacher overall.

Next, as to your two examples, the shop teacher was wrong to make the kids watch the same movie each time BUT it is notoriously difficult to find competent subs--especially in a specialized class like shop. You do really want to be in charge of hormonal teens with band saws on a one day gig?

As for the teacher who was facing "burnout" and retirement with too many absences (according to the parents)--Most schools will not have a leave policy that provides 36 or more leave days in a year. She must have had a number of days from previous years where she was rarely absent. If she was facing retirement, it is in her best interest to use those days as she needs them to get things done as they are usually worth little to nothing at retirement. Some schools have a "use it or lose it" policy for leave days, some offer as little as $25 a day reimbursement for unused days. If she was absent as much as you say, she had those days OR she needed them for reasons she was not obligated to tell you.

Lastly, teachers are under constant scrutiny from parents, supervisors, school boards, and even colleagues. It doesn't always take a formal eval to find good teachers v. rotten eggs. Our performance is evaluated by classroom behavior, test scores, parent complaints and many other factors. But, unlike computer codes and nuts and bolts products, students are human beings with their own personalities, agendas, thought processes, free will, home issues, learning issues, problems, challenges and all that go with that. A teacher can do everything "right" and still not produce the desired outcome to the standards of those evaluating. It is not the same and should not be weighed in the same way.

As for Career changers in the job force, I am one as well. But even teachers who have been in the education field since day one have had their job searching discouragement. We have all had to take our lumps, so to speak. Hang in or don't--it is all up to you. Just don't be so quick to judge.
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Old 12-16-2009, 04:15 PM
 
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I understand what you're saying. I'm sorry a full time job hasn't happened for you yet. I hope it does before you have to go back to the business world.

I've come to the teaching field later in life, also. While in college, the saying around the science building was, "Those who can do. Those who can't, teach." That was 30 years ago. I don't agree with that statement, but that was the prevailing attitude at the time and I can see why some would have said that. Almost everybody I graduated with is a doctor of some kind. (In the relatively small science dept, I was always at the bottom of the curve!)

I can see the need to run schools more like a business, but in some ways, I'm not sure it would work. We're dealing with human beings who have a will of their own. I can see getting rid of somebody who messes up your lab (where I worked), because they are dealing with things which don't have a mind of their own, usually. But it's awful to fire a teacher who has a group of couldn't-care-less kids. Some schools have more than their fair share of them!

The time I've been teaching-for-pay is very limited, compared to most on this board. I've never had a union. In general, I see the need for unions, but like all things good, they can turn ugly.

I hope to hear other opinions.
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well stated...
Old 12-20-2009, 05:29 PM
 
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Lottalove! Teacher mom65, please do not be so quick to judge. Things are not always what they seem. We are dealing with a multitude of factors- which can not be controlled by me. I wish you luck in your job search- but please be an advocate for your chosen career-
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Old 12-21-2009, 05:45 AM
 
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Well, I learned that in some places, there are avenues to address poor teacher performance...so thanks for the responses. It sounds like this might vary by the strength of the unions, teacher contracts, etc. I'm also wondering if a fear of lawsuits might be the biggest obstacle to addressing issues of teacher performance. The effects of our litigious society. Also, I hear you that there are many more factors at play than might be obvious or that I might not be aware of. That is a great observation and something for me to keep in mind.

I feel badly that a couple of you think I am judging teachers. My positive attitude towards teachers was the motivation for this post. I see so many great teachers - and my friend was one of them - who should be rewarded for their efforts to go above and beyond. It was teacher role models that inspired me to switch professions to something that I thought was more worthy for society. I think the world of most teachers and commend the very difficult job that they do.

Your comments made me realize that I should have pointed out that there is additional information about the two examples that I did not feel comfortable posting. Let's just say that there were complicating factors in both cases that scared the administration away from taking action. Other teachers I know are disgusted with these colleagues as well.

Anyway, I just think that good teachers ought to be rewarded more than sub-par teachers. I still stand by that. The hard part is how to evaluate this. I also think that people who are burned out or unsuccessful - and this is for ANY career - ought to be encouraged to move on. This would allow for new blood to come in and hopefully make a more positive impact. The impact of poor teachers is quite profound - just as the impact of fantastic teachers is profound.

Anyway, I hope that all of the hard working teachers and subs have a very restful break and happy holidays!



Last edited by Teachermom65; 12-21-2009 at 11:00 AM..
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Old 12-21-2009, 05:18 PM
 
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I can't speak much to the issue of unions except to say I'm in Virginia where there is no teacher union and dedicated teachers are taken advantage of in a multitude of ways. Our town government is notorious for complimenting how "wonderful" the teaching staff is while they cut funding, eliminate raises, etc. Yay teachers who do so much with so little. ~eyeroll~

The irony is that "nondedicated" teachers are still hard to get rid of. It can be done - but many admins don't want to do the work necessary to do it. (i.e. improvement plan, frequent observations, documentation)

The trouble with trying to compensate the "good teachers" is who decides what is good. Is it test scores? Well who is going to address that some teachers get handed tough (behavior/low ses/low performance/etc.) classes and other teachers get handed creampuff classes in comparison. What about the teachers who teach "to the test" and throw the rest of the curriculum out the window as a result? What about the ridiculous class sizes that make it hard to reach all the kids we need to reach?

Is it good classroom control? What about the teacher who doesn't even allow dialogue to occur in her classroom and keeps students busy for days copying and recopying the same two sentences until it is perfect? Or the teacher who never lets her "bad" kids out for recess and denies them fieldtrips because noone ever starts fresh - they accumulate their punishment all year along so they reach a point where it will take them months to "do their time" at recess? You know the class - looks great if you glance in (such quiet children! such a pretty room!) but if you spend long in there it starts to feel creepy because no one talks, no one moves, no one smiles.

Is it the teacher who volunteers for lots of extra duty like yearbook and hospitality and chorus? What if that teacher also wears sweatshirts to school (against dress code policy) and doesn't get her report cards out on time because she was busy working on some extra project?

Is it the teacher who the parents love? Sometimes that teacher is just good at butt-kissing and telling parents what they want to hear.

In my opinion, ALL teachers need to be paid well. Yes, that means there will be those getting paid more who "don't deserve it" - but that occurs in EVERY field. In tandem, I believe that admins need to be more active in observing teachers and expecting good teaching practices and in DEVELOPING good teaching practices in their staff through staff development. If teachers who leave lousy sub plans, do worksheets galore, or write 3 word lesson plans on the back of a napkin were held accountable and written up and then gotten rid of if they didn't shape up - then gradually those "bad" teachers would either improve or leave. Right now, those of us who spend our own money, work ridiculous amounts whether at home or at school, worry over our students, try to improve our teaching each year, and stand on our heads to get kids to learn end up taken advantage of and abused.

We need better pay and someone protecting our rights in this teacher-negative culture we live in today in America.

~TAngerine
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Food for thought
Old 12-22-2009, 04:45 AM
 
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I so enjoyed reading your thread. I'm in my 50s and have been teaching for about 8 years...prior to that I worked in the corporate world and owned a consulting company.

I'd like to share my thoughts. In my humble opinion, public school organizational management is far, far, behind the times. In actuality, little has changed in terms of management dynamics and organizational development for years and years.

Things like 360 appraisals, effective time management, training, effective horizontal management, team management have really yet to be accepted by the public school sytstems...because they haven't had to yet...they will. The operation of a school is largely based on personnel management...the teachers provide the service to the client...the students...everything else is essentially management...how to run the school.

I'm an National Board Certified Teacher and I've taught these last 8 years and I love teaching kids. I've always taught in Title 1 schools and just love the kids. However, I'm so frustrated and disappointed in management and organizational issues that I've decided this is my last year.

I think coming from the corporate world allows one to provide a benchmark to compare structures. Really, schools are businesses...except that they are run much differently. The only difference is that the service they provide is teaching children. The management skills are no different than the corporate world. What I see in the public school system is the dominance of the "Peter Principal." Because individuals are good teachers they move to management...and essentially become ineffective. Management requires an entirely diffeent set of skills...and those skills must be embraced by the organization or they will die out.

As I said, I love teaching...but to be honest with you I would not enroll my own kids in a public school. It's been my experience that the driving force behind schools is only numbers...without thought to quality of teachers or children. I know there are execeptions...but from my experience I feel what I say is probably the norm rather than the exception.

Thanks
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Corporate Vs. Teaching
Old 12-29-2009, 05:17 PM
 
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I only worked in "coorporate" world for about 10 years. I did not feel I was being challenged. While working I started teaching Sunday school for extra money. I moved around a lot. My last move before coming back to CA, was in Texas. When I came back to CA, I did not have a job. I started taking odd/seasonal jobs to recover some money. In almost all my jobs there were incompetant people who did not get fired. One company, my co-worker played cards on the computer all day. Another, surfed the Internet for a couple of hours a day. At a Halloween shop one manager had no concept of how to do much, another was out looking for a full time job more often then she was at the store.

About 7-8 years ago, I decided I needed to seriously figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn't thrilled about getting a credential, but figured at least I only worked 6 hours a day and had summer off. I applied to a credential program, got rejected. Tried to do another program-couldn't handle a Linguistic's Class. Finally heard about a two year internship program, applied and got in.

It is now my 6th year of teaching full time. It has been a wake up call. My first two were tough because I was going to school full time and commuting on Sundays to teach(long story). Then I thought my 3rd year would be easier as it was the same grade and no school. They changed the law and said that I had to go through new teacher training (ironic since I had been teaching for two years), that was a huge fight as I was expected to take classes that I had just finished.

I find it ironic that they don't want to give me ideas on how to do my job better/use exisiting technology, but instead want me to get trained in Guided Reading ten times. I don't remember when working in "coorporate" world having to get trained on something a million times when I already get it.
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