(This post is a follow-up to a recent entry about a job offer from the district from which I retired. I waffled for awhile about accepting a long-term substitute position in that district because I am eminently qualified and I seriously doubt they will find someone else with the qualifications they need this late in the hiring year. High school math and science teacher shortages are hurting many areas, with bilingual math and science hurting worse.)
I’m done. I love those kids, but for the last few years I did not find my working environment pleasant. Interestingly, even in the best of districts, I find many teachers share my view. Teaching’s just not as fun as it used to be. Numbers too often rule daily life today.
As I write this, I want to be clear that I am not against data-driven instruction. I am not against using numbers for decision-making. Heck, my original certification area was high school mathematics. I love numbers.
Numbers ought to convey real meanings, however. When an assistant principal comes into a classroom for an evaluation and creates 22 pages worth of Charlotte Danielson numbers to describe classroom performance in a class he has only seen for maybe two or three hours total, that’s not data-driven anything. That’s Drek with a capital D. When everyone gathers together for the fifth meeting of the week to evaluate the results of a Common Core-based test written by an outside consulting firm, and set at a level four years above the average student’s standardized-test-documented level of understanding, that’s not creating data-driven instruction. That’s wasting an afternoon.
Especially when students cannot even read their tests, opportunity costs hurt. I could be designing appropriate materials, re-writing handouts and sections of unreadable books. I could be meeting students to tutor them. I could be doing a great many things that would be more useful than sitting in Meeting #5 in a week that may include seven formal meetings, Forget the informal get-togethers that come afterward as small groups of teachers gather to try to figure out what the latest meeting meant.
Simple, daily subbing is fun. I still enjoy students of all ages. I started blogging this on my phone, while reflecting in a teachers lounge in a comfortable suburban district. I will clean up all the voice recognition typos later. Today I am a floating sub. Soon I will have lunch duty. I am ready. I brought my little pink earplugs.
But long-term subbing picks up the baggage of regular teaching. And I’m done. I won’t go to meetings. During some weeks of my last year, I spent a full days worth of hours simply sitting in meetings. I will never do that again. I generated spreadsheet after spreadsheet for interested or supposedly-interested administrators who sometimes looked at the spreadsheets, I think. The spreadsheets showed that my students were unable to read the outside consultants’ tests and quizzes. But I knew that. Anybody with half-a-brain should have known that. Once a school has documented that a student is functioning at a second-grade level in English, no advanced degree is required to understand that that student cannot read seventh-grade science textbooks. Many story problems in math will elude that student as well — whether he or she knows the desired math or not.
And that 20% or so of my last, formal school year that I was forced to dedicate to mandatory quizzes and testing? I can’t find any words about that lost time that aren’t too crude to blog. My last years of teaching taught me to think in strings of expletives, a skill I am working hard to forget.
I am so done. The lack of consideration given to opportunity costs as administrators amass numbers that sometimes provide almost no information is driving many dedicated professionals out of my former profession. Unfortunately, I strongly suspect most of these departures are occurring in the districts across America that most need stability, the financially and educationally-challenged districts plaguing our international score results.
As I quickly dictate in this empty, comfy lounge, I reflect again that the kids getting hit hardest are the kids who are already down for the academic count. In this school, the three-D printers, fully-furnished exercise room, and regular guest speakers keep middle school students entertained and interested in learning. Their teachers still gripe — that’s human, I suppose — but on the whole seem much happier with their jobs than the teachers I left behind. Making lots of money, while having all the supplies you need, does seem to create a happier working environment, especially since schools with good scores don’t have to crank out all those spreadsheets in all those meetings.
Well, time to wade out into the fray.
I did not take that long-term, high-school science substitute position. I don’t need the extra money. Instead, I am doing lunch duty while covering for missing special education and gym teachers. I could not be happier with my choice.