Tuesday, May 31, 2005

I resign....

I resigned my position as a teacher at a New York City Department of Education School. However, I have been promised a job for next year by International Recruitment of the New York City Department of Education.

Why did I resign my teaching position? Well it all started back last September 2004 when I started as a Reading Teacher at Channel View School for Research. As the Reading Teacher I was expected to assist level 1 and 2 readers improve their reading skills in order to pass the April 2005 reading test.

Not knowing the first thing about the position I asked for assistance and gratefully received it from the school’s part time “Staff Developer.” I took notes and she helped me put together a good reading program. I even laid out my plans to the Local Instructional Superintendent for the school. She seemed quite pleased as well.

I even talked to principal of the school to see if the school should be “double servicing” those identified for resource. The principal said “yes” in September. Then in the beginning of November the principal said to end the double servicing. So I did. I was then instructed to pick up some more students for reading if they were willing. I offered to take anyone interesting in increasing their reading skills. But who is willing to leave their Art or Gym classes which were really the only two classes I could remove students from to give them reading assistance.

Then in mid-November. I was asked to take over seventh grade class from a teacher who was leaving the school. This was the toughest grade seven class in the whole school and had been out of control behaviorally for quite some time. Shortly before the teacher leaving, my schedule had changed to team teach with this teacher in the hopes of turning this class around. I was also told by the principal to get the discipline problems out of the way first.

I was unsure and talked it over with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) chapter leader at the school. I was a little uneasy about a first year teacher taking over a class in mid-November. I told the UFT chapter leader that an experienced teacher should be taking over. He said there was perhaps something coming in the next two weeks.

But, against my better judgment, I soldiered on. This class, in grade six had two teachers and I was now the second teacher in grade seven. Also, their second teacher in grade six had recommended the class be broken up. But apparently that advice was not listened to by the principal. I was able to teach Social Studies and English to mostly level one and two readers in that class. Sure there were stressful times.

Then something happened. The Assistant Principal gave me an Unsatisfactory rating one time on my formal teaching evaluation with this particular class. In one of them he said I should be working with the Dean of Discipline of the school and contacting the parents. I nearly went through the roof on this one. The Dean of Discipline had been pulling disruptive students out for quite some time. I also had been calling parents sometimes one or two times a week and had recorded these conversations in my own notebook and in the respective student’s disciplinary files in the Dean’s office. But I soldiered on.

Then at the end of March the school finally found another teacher for the class and I was removed and given a “Literacy” job as well as supervision of “In House Suspension.” My third class in with the worst eighth grade class in the school, I had another formal observation from the Assistant Principal. Of course I received another unsatisfactory rating. The Assistant Principal even noted that I did not have a “Do Now.” Why did I not use the “Do Now?” This was because I had previously taught the lesson before and the “Do Now” “stunk up the joint” with the students. I had also heard from the staff developer that “Do Nows” were not required by the workshop model. Thus, did I mention communication at this school is not top notch between people trying to help and the administration? More on that later.

Lets back up a bit again. About a week after taking over the Literacy job, and the Thursday before the long weekend associated with Easter, I received a letter calling me to a disciplinary hearing for that Monday. To say the least I had a sleepless long weekend.

In a nutshell the disciplinary hearing was because I was not using Finish Line Reading or Kaplan test preparation books for test preparation. Whats amusing about this is that the Kaplan test preparation books since had only been delivered the Thursday before I was pulled from that class. So I questioned how I could be held responsible for not using them.

At the hearing I was represented by the second UFT person at the school because the Chapter leader’s mother had passed away that weekend. The second UFT person was also the school’s Literacy Coach. During the hearing it came up that at the seventh grade team meeting to discuss literacy and math testing that I never heard we had to use Finish Line Reading. The UFT Person, and the school’s own Literacy Coach concurred on this matter with a “I don’t recall” statement when asked.

However, I still received a letter on my file I had [allegedly] violated the test preparation schedule policy as set down at a special meeting by not using Finish Line reading workbooks. This despite I had used both STARS a little more than Finish Line as well as questions to engage the student to investigate the book we were then reading. Both STARS and the reading investigation questions came from the region’s “Suggested” test preparation schedule. Thus, I can’t figure out this principal.

Further on the letter on my file, the principal rips apart my lesson plans even though I had been praised on my planning by the Assistant Principal for having well planned lessons. This is another thing I can’t figure out.

Last Thursday I had another “Formal Observation” by the Principal. I use the word in quotes in this case because I wouldn’t use the word “formal” at all. A formal observation, according to the contract, requires a pre-observation conference. I asked, at the post observation conference when the pre-observation conference occurred. The principal replied that with all the work I had done with the Assistant Principal and others that that would suffice as a pre-observation conference. I beg to differ. All in all I received another unsatisfactory rating and a threat that the district would come in to evaluate me. With the district coming to evaluate me I figured they were now gunning for my job. Thus, I resigned effective June 1st 2005. I sent in a resignation letter via express post to be at the school May 31st.

Why resign? In order to keep my teaching license for next year, it was recommended that I resign my position.

As for the lack of communication at the school. Consider that this school is supposed to be a “model school.” Being a “model school” means your school is looked over from top to bottom by principals from other schools, regional representatives, politicians, and every person who owns a clipboard in New York City. Now back to the communication problems. Usually we receive a list of what these people are looking for and have to run crazily around our own classrooms to fix things or add things. The problem is we have been improving our rooms all year at the last minute for quite some time. Why? Because the administration issues a list of things they people are looking for the day or two days before they come. Some things are totally new and need to be created. With such a short notice most of the new stuff they are looking for is done “on the fly.” The lack of communication comes with the question I have always had: “why were we not issued a list of things that had to be in the classroom for the year at the beginning of the year?” Surely every school in the region would require the same things we are supposed to be “modeling” in usage.

Did I mention that the school I resigned from was only in it’s first year in existence? First year schools should never be model schools. Why is that? This because first year schools need time to create and develop school policies in terms of proper orderly operation of the school. Everything from who needs to where do the children report to first thing in the morning to ensuring students are fed lunch properly all within an orderly manner needs to be tested and kinks ironed out. So imagine my surprise that we were a model school in our first year. So the entire year the administration and the staff have been scrambling to ensure the school is clean, orderly and new procedures issued at the last minute to memorize and adhere to. Sometimes the policies change.

Add to this the fact that most of the staff is in their first or second year of teaching, the teaching faculty are already stressed enough about what the heck is going on tomorrow. Thus, lesson planning and unit planning are also needed. On top of this being a new school presents challenges as well. The issue of storage had become a problem with unneeded furniture requiring a home that the school just doesn’t have.

On top of this bulletin boards in the hallways need to be changed on a monthly basis. This is not too bad as it sounds. Add to this the problem of getting good quality work from the students to fill a bulletin board can be a struggle. The students at this school believe doing a piece of writing is fine enough and we should move onto something else. They don’t even get the idea of the writing the rough draft then further refining it via the writing process. So the bulletin boards are time consuming for teachers who must call parents and chase students to hand in good copies. Add to this the principal prefers everything to be typed, and you just add to the issues.

School computers you say? The school got ninety laptops with wireless connection to both internet and a printer. Well everything seems peachy keen until you realize that in some rooms the internet doesn’t work and in most rooms the computers simply do not communicate with the printer. Thus the idea of typing good copies for the above bulletin boards can be even more frustrating if we try to use the school computers becomes a frustrating experience.

Sure the school has “I Macs”. But these computers are bolted to computer tables and need to be unbolted in order to have the keyboards, power cords and mice plugged in. The region technicians need a certain serial number of the computers themselves. However, you guessed it, the serial numbers are located under the bolted down piece. So many of these “I Macs” are sitting unused in the school by either the staff or students. Probably these “I Macs” are counted under the city’s computer to student ratio even though these particular computers are not currently being used.

The craziness doesn’t stop there. Under the New York City Department of Education’s best practices marking sheet which our school is marked under, there is supposed to be at least a “parental aide” as well as a regularly appointed teacher in the In House Suspension room. When I was supervising In House Suspension there was never a “parental aide” in the room. Add to this some teachers were not submitting work to me for students to do while on suspension meant that sometimes I had to keep these students busy all day. Somedays I would have ten to fifteen of these students in the suspension room. That doesn’t sound too bad. But imagine having fifteen of the worst students from the school in your classroom and you are expected to, by the principal, keep them under control and working for the six periods you are there. Impossible most days!

So I resigned my position. That was not before I sent off an eight and half page letter to International Recruitment Office explaining what was going on at my school. Here I was with very little assistance, (except for a great mentor!) expected to work magic after at least six schedule changes during not even one school year. The students in grade seven and eight thought I was worthless because of all the schedule changes. The problem was the principal moved me around too much because she wasn’t sure where I fit in and had issues that needed to be dealt with. So I am happy to be done with this school!

For now, I have the month of June ahead of totally wide open in New York City. I think I am going to enjoy the time off with no students and explore the city as well as search for a new job here in New York and in Canada. More on this in the days to come.

3 comments:

  1. Wow that sucks sorry Mike.

    let's hope your 8.5 page letter does some good.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow. I don't know how you managed as long as you did. Hopefully your letter makes the right people aware of the issues.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I hope you have more fun at your next school. Have fun enjoying New York Mikey!

    ReplyDelete

Popular Posts

Google