Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Charter School Turnover

This article from the LA Times (it's in the feed as well) as popped up twice today in my personal sphere, in my Facebook feed and via email from a friend.

In short, the article discusses high teacher turnover in charters in Los Angeles. I suspect, though, that turnover in other charters across the nation are comparable...including mine. In fact, the principal mentioned the turnover during the interview. 

Of course, turnover is high here!

Yet, I still accepted the job knowing well that a nice percentage of my colleagues this year will not be back next year. I chalk the turnover to two things: the numbers of "hats" teachers in charters must wear and that teaching in a charter is more demanding than in a traditional public school. 

1. Because most charters operate with no input from the local school system, everyone in a charter school building has to do multiple things.* For example, one of our teachers is a teacher/website-updater-guy. Multitasking varies from charter to charter, and this may even occur at some traditional public schools. I'll venture an educated guess, though, and say that traditional public schools are likely to have a people dedicated to simply, say, website development or to data analysis. 

That brings up another point. With little to no non-financial resource input from local school systems and limited local funding, charters can't afford to hire people dedicated to a single, non-teaching job. As a result, everyone, including teachers, is likely to have some sort of "slash" in their official job title. 

* Some charters do have input both financially and otherwise, to a good extent,  from the local school system. To see what I'm talking, about, click here

2. Teaching anywhere is pressure-filled, especially during this current age of "accountability". Yet, after talking with non-charter teacher friends and some of my colleagues, I'm convinced that teaching in a charter is a bit more demanding (at least where I live). From the longer hours expected, the number of "hats" we wear to the fact that there is a contract hanging over our heads that basically says "Teach or else...", it's a lot to contend with, especially over a long period of time. 

Apologies for letting my freak flag fly.
With full knowledge of  the insanity, both perceived and real, that occur in charters and that comes with teaching in one, I took the job, because I believe in the mission of school. I believe in the people working there. Last, but not least, I believe in the leader that we have. The mix of these three factors convinced me that even throughout the madness of the school, we are all going to do great things. 

I'm extremely loyal to a fault (six years at a daycare as a part-time job through the end of high school through undergrad!). Probably a bit insane as well, so I'm good with my "crazy" charter teaching spot. 

My teaching hero?

Some people are not good with it, which is okay too. I believe that every good teacher has a school, where they can become excellent teacher. My charter is where I think I can become excellent, so while the odds are against anyone staying long-term , the odds have never phased me before. Besides, wouldn't want to work at Hogwarts the place where they can become excellent?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The First Department Meeting (!)

Few quick notes about my first department meeting...

  • It was frickin' brief! An agenda of about 8 items was knocked out in 30-45 minutes. The rest of the time was spent...
  • Collaborative working: I worked with another science teacher, with a couple of SS teachers, with a connections teacher, and even with the CI AP! My notepad page was filled to edge with notes of all types of great classroom management and unit/lesson planning tips. 
  • Someone actually asked for my opinion. I don't mean to sound so incredulous, but yeah, I'm shocked. I've had the impression that new teachers are to shut up and take it in. I don't mind doing this, but when I want an idea heard for consideration, I want to speak up. Yet, I walked prepared to take it in. Nope! None of that here. 
  • There was a strong sense of spirit: Everyone in the room really seemed into the mission and culture of the school, which I loved. 
  • The promotion of individuality: While there was certainly team spirit in all the planning work we did, it was made clear that we have control over our classrooms
I am stoked to get to work with these people. I can't say enough of how much it means to know that everyone working here is on the same page mission-wise. Just knowing that I'll be working with such hard-working, competent professionals who are excited about their work makes me feel more relaxed and confident. I've got a whole staff of people on my side now. 

Cue the High School Musical:

FYI, we busted out in dance post-meeting. Something like this in fact :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Student-teacher or teacher-teacher?

As some of you may know, I am in a master's degree/certification program, meaning that at the end of this shindig, I will leave with full teaching credentials in my fields along with a master's degree. In my cohort, most of everyone is a career switcher and has never taught before in a classroom. There are a small handful of people already teaching on provisional credentials. And then there's me, never taught before but has a job for the fall. 

[For those who have read my previous posts, yes, I was a fellow at a charter, but riding a bike with training wheels is different from riding one without the training wheels. Just saying.]

I'm in the weird in-between space. The "non-teachers" will be student-teaching for the year, while the "teacher" will use their classroom as their "student-teaching" experience. Technically, I'm considered as the latter, yet I feel like I should be considered as the prior. As I was emailing a friend, I said something along the lines of "...you will be a great asset to your students, be it as a student-teacher or a teacher-teacher".

How ridiculous was that! What does that mean? While I'm getting more comfortable with the fact that, hey, I will have my own classroom in the few weeks, I still feel like I have much to learn about teaching, curriculum, instruction, and the list continues. I know that I can be at least a good teacher for my students this year, but I won't be the best, precisely because I am still a student of teaching, curriculum, instruction, etc. I don't know everything or even a lot, right now. 

Officially, we are teachers, bur aren't we all student-teachers? Don't we have to continue to learn about teaching and everything that it is loaded with it? Do "teacher-teachers" even exist? If so, can you contact me, because I've got some brain-picking to do?

 Update: I just found out that some schools call teachers in training "preservice" and practicing teachers "inservice". I like this delineation much better. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Administrative Awesomeness

I've been so busy with all these papers/presentations that I haven't had the time to report the little bit of sunshine in my teaching life. Before I share, I need to give background.

One of my pet-peeves in my classes the summer has been the frequent references to crappy administrators. By now, I think every teacher, if not everyone, knows that some schools are run by incompetant ninnies or scandalous scoundrels. In fact, this applies to any job with superiors and subordinates.

They even made a movie about them.

Don't get me wrong. An ineffective principal and/or an ineffective administrative team can do serious damage at a school. Arguably, they can do more damage than one teacher can. However, I don't see  how constantly harping on the subject does me, or importantly, my students any good. I can't control what they do, but I can control my reactions to their actions. Yet, I have been preparing myself in case things go sour.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Six weeks...

...is all it took for me to get to attached to these kids from the summer program. Granted, I have one more day with some of them, today was the last day for the "man of the group". I was truly sad to say goodbye today. While I'm sad, this summer experience just makes to more eager and excited to take on my own class in less than a month.

Bring it on.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The CRCT cheating report finally hit the fan

There are no words for the actual insanity found here, here and here. I'm so angry that a relatively small percentage of stupid, cowardly adults are what reflects the values of the entirety of Atlanta Public Schools.

More importantly, these losers have forever put the proverbial asterisk next to the affected kids' test scores. These kids will never know whether their scores were because of an effort on their part or by the efforts of some jerk administrators and teachers that felt the need to cover their butts instead of...you know, teaching! This, my friends, is real insanity. 

No matter your thoughts on standardized testing, we all should agree that nothing is worth risking our integrity as educators and more importantly, that of our students.