stephanie jones

Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

Mandatory dehumanization…AJC op-ed piece

In Education Policy, high-stakes tests, teacher education on March 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Thanks to Maureen for posting my piece today – and so far the comments are great! (of course I won’t hold my breath, the horribly mean and nasty people who want to destroy teachers and students in every way possible will surely log on soon!)

I love when teachers share publicly how they ignore their curriculum and pacing guides to do some really cool stuff with kids. Of course they know they might suffer in the end because of lower test results because they’re not rushing through the many unrelated facts that will be on the test – but they do it anyway because they want their students to have something bigger to hold onto.

Here’s the piece.



Teacher Morale is Low? How Could That Be?

In Education Policy, feminist work, high-stakes tests, Neoliberalism and Education, professional development resources, teacher education, teacher education resources on March 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Of course teacher morale is lower than it has been in two decades – no surprise there.

Maybe this recent study will provide lots of educators to jump up, yell, scream, write, speak out, organize, and figure out a way to be powerful once again!

A HUGE kudos goes out to Anabel Fender – one of my former students who wrote about her experiences during an independent study we had together last fall – now she has an editorial on the AJC blog Get Schooled (Maureen Downey) and it’s comin’ out in print too!

For your reading pleasure:

Future teachers – failures before we even start

4:37 am March 7, 2012, by Maureen Downey

Are new teachers undermined before they even step into the classroom? (AP Images)

Are new teachers undermined before they even step into the classroom? (AP Images)

Anabel Fender is a graduate student in education at the University of Georgia. This is her first essay on the Get Schooled blog.

I think it is terrific and an ideal follow-up to the survey results I posted earlier today. Read them both and you will get a sense of what teachers are experiencing right now.

By Anabel Fender

I am an idealist. A dreamer.

An…Oh-My-Goodness-Scared-To-Death-Future Teacher.

And I am made out to be a failure before I even start.

I am battered and bruised from the war against teachers and I haven’t even started teaching yet.

Scripted curricula tell me that the “higher ups” have no faith in my words. My Words! An integral part of what makes me a teacher is not trusted, so I will be given a script telling me exactly what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. In what other profession do we not trust the words of the professional? Before I start, they make me question my words.

Merit pay initiatives imply that the teachers of America are not working as hard as they can already. In theory this initiative reflects the business world, but in the business world workers design their own goods and services. Teachers no longer have the freedom to design their goods and services – those are ready-made and required from above. It makes more sense to hold those creating the standards, curriculum guides, and scripted curriculum accountable for test scores – they are the ones making the “goods” and “services.” Before I start, they make me question my power.

In an effort to “improve” the teacher with scripted curriculum and merit pay, governors, federal government, and educational “reformers” favor alternative routes to certify teachers. Colleges of education are accused of using students as cash cows for funding research. Flyers for Teach for America hang on bulletin boards in the same universities. I am completely invested and have worked hard for my undergraduate and graduate degrees in education. I have made personal and financial sacrifices for a profession that will not give me great returns monetarily.

And policy makers have the audacity to think that a 22-year old business major spending six weeks of summer training to be a teacher is better equipped for teaching than I am. They help pay her loans, find a job, and offer funding for further education. But me? I graduate with education degrees when no one is hiring, teachers have no job security, and my student loans equal a teacher’s annual salary. Before I start, everyone is questioning my capabilities.

Teachers want what is best for students, but the current war against teachers is enough to wear anyone down. Teachers are constantly being told they are not good enough and then considered a threat when they speak out against injustices in schools.

Teachers’ tenure has been all but eliminated, furlough days are required, salaries are stagnant, and policies are written to fire teachers for being tardy but not to compensate them for their long evening and weekend hours. And since Georgia is a right-to-work state with no union to protect its teachers, teachers do what they must to keep their jobs. Teachers are afraid to speak out as intellectuals. Before I start I am questioning whether I am “allowed” to be an intellectual as a teacher.

I am battered and bruised but I am not going to question my words, my power, and my ability to be an intellectual. I will not let others define me, but I need teacher allies – former, current, and future teachers who will stand up with me and for me against this war on teachers. This is not about competition or jobs or our future. This is about improving our quality of life in schools so we can make schools powerful places for idealists to make their dreams a reality.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog


The War Against Teachers

In Education Policy, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, professional development resources, Teaching Work on March 6, 2012 at 4:58 pm

A former student contacted me today. She’s a first year teacher and says she feels “super unsupported” and that her school wanted to dock her pay 1/4 of an hour for being tardy.

I wonder if the school is going to pay her overtime for the hours she spends at home preparing to teach.

First furloughs and now docked pay?

The war against teachers (and teaching, but that’s another rant) has really reached an unbelievable low.

This is from the Clayton News Daily (Georgia) about HR policies impacting teachers:

Goree: BOE’s personnel policy unfair to employees

By Jeylin White (174)
As of Thursday, March 1, 2012 
© Copyright 2012 Clayton News Daily
#During Monday night’s board of education meeting, school district officials presented several updates on the operation of the school system, but sparks seemed to ignite among board members over the district’s personnel policy.
#School Board Chairperson Pam Adamson and Board Member Jessie Goree clashed when Goree alleged that the board has undisclosed plans to dock the pay of teachers who are tardy too often, or even fire them.
#Adamson told Goree that her concern was not an item that was on the agenda, and was, therefore, not up for discussion. In the middle of Goree’s response to Adamson, her microphone was apparently turned off. According to Goree, it was turned off because board members are “turning their backs on addressing the needs and concerns of district employees.”
#Adamson, however, could not be reached for comment for this article.
#Another Goree concern is that –– according to her –– teachers and other district employees “are not being compensated for working more than 8 hours a day.”
#“I think that is just totally disrespectful to our employees,” said Goree. “We just shouldn’t treat people like this.”
#The current personnel policy, Goree said, allows Clayton County School Superintendent Edmond Heatley to make district employees work longer than an 8-hour day without monetary compensation. Goree added that the current policy is not treating school system employees fairly.
#Her complaint is that teachers and district employees are being forced to attend meetings after school hours, attend weekend events, and that it’s mandatory for all principals to attend board of education meetings, which are held twice a month, in the evenings.
#She stressed to board members that teachers are already overworked and underpaid, especially for the amount of responsibility they carry.
#“It’s more and more demands we keep making on [teachers] without taking them into consideration,” she said. “I understand that, when you take on a job as a principal, it’s a 24-7 position, but we’re not going to compensate principals for working on a Saturday? “It’s bad enough that we [have] principals [sitting] at board meetings on Monday night’s and then they have to be at work by 7 a.m., [the next day.]”
#Sid Chapman, president of the Clayton County Education Association, agreed with Goree. Chapman said the extra hours teachers have to work are excessive, and he said he’s not even sure if the current personnel policy is legal. If fact, he added, the district could be in violation of Georgia’s labor laws.
#“Teachers are being treated very poorly,” said Chapman. “I don’t see where in the policy you can terminate teachers for tardiness.”
#He said the reason why teachers are not coming forth with their concerns is because of fears of retaliation, or of losing their jobs. “The overall feeling is [teachers] are fed up and ready to leave,” he said. “It’s a very oppressive and toxic environment.”
#Goree said she is flooded with phone calls and e-mails from teachers and district employees expressing their concerns about the current working environment. She said teachers are telling her they cannot wait for the school year to be over, so they can find other jobs.
#Clayton County Public Schools Chief Human Resources Officer Doug Hendrix said the district is not in violation of any labor laws. According to Hendrix, fair labor standards list school system employees as exempt employees.
#“[In] our work in education as a profession, there are going to be things we do outside the normal hours,” said Hendrix. “School system employees having to work extra hours is something that comes with the territory.”
#Goree added that her discontentment extends to the personnel policy dealing with teachers’ resignations. She said the board can reject, or deny, an employee’s request to take family medical leave, or to resign from a position, if they need leave to take care of a sick family member. “How can you reject someone’s resignation?” Goree asked the board, at Monday’s meeting.
#Heatley responded by saying that certain criteria must be met before an employee is able to break his or her contract with the school system. He said the contract does not keep employees from leaving their jobs, but it will mean that they have abandoned their jobs.
#Chapman added that there is a lack of consideration for illness, and that the school district is unsympathetic to employees who are having medical difficulties. As a result, he said, they could be terminated. “This [policy] needs to change,” he said.
#“What is it that we are not understanding when we’re reading these policies?” Goree asked. “We have some hard-working people, who work for the school system. Teachers and administrators will do what they need to do to make things work.”
#Since Superintendent Heatley has been in office, Goree said, the personnel policy has changed several times. Her concern is that, when changes are being made, the immediate supervisors, who oversee employees, are “being taken out of the decision process.
#“Everything goes through [human resources,]” she said.
#Hendrix said he would not make a comment on Goree’s comments, or those of any other board member. “They’re the board members, It’s their policy, and they decide what the policy is going to be,” he said.

Love this – Confessions from a “Bad” Teacher

In Education Policy, Neoliberalism and Education, teacher education, Teaching Work on March 5, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Thanks to Maureen at the AJC for sharing this –

Great opinion piece from a nyc high school teacher.

Of course more ridiculous requirements from supervisors make teachers do ridiculous things that might even harm their students in the short- and long-run! Let teachers teach for crying out loud, and stop ruining our classrooms by walking through with “checklists” to make sure the teachers are “implementing” programs with “fidelity” and “fully compliance”!


We have entered an entirely new level of neoliberal management/surveillance of micro-movements of everyone and everything in schools.

And it’s killing us.

Getting Clear about Emotion – Teacher Morale, Crying, and Policy Makers

In discourse, Education Policy, families, family-school relations, feminist work, high-stakes tests, identity, Standing up for Kids, teacher education, Teaching Work on March 4, 2012 at 5:54 pm

What’s all the crying about? Education policy that requires teachers to engage in malpractice – that’s what.

The secret is out, teachers, and you are not the only one crying over the soul-crushing policies in schools.

The first murmurs I heard about teachers in crisis came from a principal several years ago. Teachers were streaming into his office seeking counseling services. Many were taking anti-depressants. Some couldn’t sleep at night, and some were so anxious and stressed they were worried their families would suffer irreparable damage.

Teachers enter the profession to do what is best for the students in front of them and for society at large. They earn degrees, immersed in rigorous study of how and why humans learn, how to individualize instruction, and how to inspire lifelong learning and engaged citizenship.

But individualization, inspiration, and engagement aren’t in current policies, and neither is teachers’ professional knowledge. Instead teachers must follow pacing guides and move on with assignments regardless of whether students are beyond or behind. Anyone can walk into a teacher’s classroom at any moment and evaluate whether the teacher is following the one-size-fits-all program with “fidelity” and “full compliance.”

The choices are soul-crushing: 1) Slow down, teach creatively and get students excited about a topic, but fall behind the pacing guide and receive a poor evaluation and possible humiliation and job loss; or 2) Move on with the pacing guide and ignore students’ pleas for help or their yearning to learn more, and evaluations might be fine, but students suffer.

Most teachers do a little of both, but their no-win situation is devastating.

And when students’ needs aren’t met because teachers are following mandates, they also cry or cry out in other ways.

I’ve witnessed sobbing children in school, crocodile tears streaking cheeks. Their bodies rejecting the relentless mistreatment they receive from impersonal curriculum, strict limitations on socializing and movement, and harsh punishments for child-like behavior. Students reject dehumanization.

When children hold it together at school they often fall apart at home. Yelling, slamming doors, wetting the bed, having bad dreams, begging parents not to send them back to school.

Some parents seek therapy for their children. More parents than ever feel pressured to medicate their children so they can make it through school days. Others make the gut-wrenching decision to pull their children from public schools to protect their dignity, sanity, and souls. Desperate parents choose routes they have never considered: homeschooling, co-op schooling, or when they can afford it, private schooling. But most parents suffer in silence, managing constant family conflict.

And I cry.

When I spend a lot of time in schools I often cry. Each day when I would leave a particular school in New York, I would find a park bench and have a good cry before heading home on the train. I cried for the children because they were so young and vibrant and constrained to desks for seven hours at a time and they were unable to talk during lunch and they were only allowed outside for ten minutes – if at all – and those ten minutes could quickly evaporate into no minutes if the line to the outside door wasn’t straight enough or quiet enough or fast enough. I cried because I witnessed their crocodile tears streaking their cheeks as they sat silently into space.

I also cried for teachers. They were often threatened by administrators  and humiliated in front of their students, they were told at the last minute that no, they wouldn’t be teaching fifth grade like they have in the past two years – they will be teaching kindergarten and they better damn well be happy they at least have a job. They were told to collect data, look at data, analyze data – and any mention of an individual child’s struggle would be interrupted with some line about “data.”

And I cried for myself and every other parent out there who would never want her or his child treated like a number, a digit on a data sheet, a potential deficit to the school’s reputation. I have hugged and consoled countless parents who were crying and suffering in silence when their children weren’t around to see them. Parents who try to support the school’s wishes and tell their children to do what teachers say, but then fall apart in private because they know their children are miserable, sad, depressed, and crying too much over school.

Some people might say that crying is an expression of emotion and that it ought to be kept private. Some might even say crying is a sign of irrationality, of over-sensitivity, of hysteria – all insults used to pathologize women (most teachers and all mothers) for at least a hundred years.

However, teachers, students, and parents are not the only emotional players in the unbearable game of school.

Policy makers are emotional. Punitive policies forcing the impossible combination of rigidity and test-based accountability are produced out of fear, anger, distrust, and arrogance. They are written in an irrational effort to control the bodies that fill schools every day.

But policy makers don’t have to endure the physical and psychological effects of their policies – those of us in schools do.

It’s time to stand in solidarity against mandated dehumanization in one-size-fits-all schooling and against over-emotional policy makers who have a reckless stranglehold on schools. Demand that humanity be returned to teachers, students, and parents who know how to make schools dynamic, inspirational places where everyone can thrive.

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