Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I am back!!

1. These past few weeks have been CRAZY. The administrators are incredibly dysfunctional and exist only to evaluate and nitpick over stupid shit.

2. Why doesn't my school have a framework manual for teacher regarding discipline issues. The assistant principal for behavior have yet to articulate how teachers are supposed to use all the adjunct personnel - psychologist, behavioral management specialists etc. Each teacher does something different simply because they don't understand how to use the existing resources. While the administrators dither, the students figured out there are no grown-ups in charge and have effectively gamed the system.

3. Why are kids with extreme emotional and behavioral problems allowed in the regular classroom. I have several kids with EXTREME problems who need intensive psychotherapy and everything else in Freud's arsenal, yet I am still expected to teach when they DISRUPT the class at every turn. They get upset when they are in the class and when they are sent out.
4. I have been told Fuck-you so many times in the last few week by kids that I consider it a barge of honor.

5. The IMPACT evaluation was such a fucking joke. How about the principal couldn't explain to the teachers why the district gave several of the model teacher low ratings? Every teacher in the audience gave several of the model teacher high ratings, but the principal who will be evaluating us could not explain the district rationale.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

OK... First week

*** Well it started with a bang. I wasn't informed that I would have a classroom until approximately 8:30am last Monday. Luckily, my colleagues were great in helping me get stuff into the room.

**** Followed the DCPS rules about classroom management the entire week but Principal visited and decided he had made a change to instruction. Problem for me was his mental change was never articulated VERBALLY.

**** I have several kids that I am already calling home, the same children who were problems last year. Parents have issues or lack control yet I must keep calling. No the behavioral specialist and other school support will not intervene until I have called at least 30 freaking times.

***** The principal is HIGHLY unethical doing stuff that is a violation of several federal laws.

***** Principal does not speak to subordinates. I thought this failed in corporate America!!!!

*** I know my content but the administration undermines teachers so systematically when it comes to enforcing the rules with kids it is sooo unbelievable. I have a few good parents but gotta keep calling.

I made the decision to go "county" last week. Strangely, I could deal with the kids issues if I knew support and backup would come from administrators. I love the vets but boy do they get trampled on. I like teaching and being around SOME of the kids but the administration has got to go!!!

*** Will post later but sleepy and haven't eaten all day !!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Professional Development.. Whatever!!!

I have seen this model in my stint in corporate America.. pay some company a ridiculous amount of money to produce beautiful slide presentations and binders, add a "knowledgeable" facilitator and the world will change. Right? .......NO!!
I received this training the Institute and the condensed version at the Freshman Orientation, so I will admit I wasn't excited at the prospect of attending another training... in the space of six weeks. While the PD course was a waste of time and money by DCPS, it served as a cautionary tale about how NOT to teach as a new teacher. Differentiated instruction was limited to content areas (sit at the maths or SPED table etc). My group consisted of two teachers receiving the training for the first time and two others like myself who recieved the training before. Needless to say this made for interesting group dynamics. The facilitator jumped from one instructional strategy to the next, I felt dizzy on several occasions. In addition, the facilitator had great difficulty truly engaging the teachers...there were the bathroom breaks, chatting, and texting. My recommendation is this cut the training to a day and a half and have DCPS teachers facilitate smaller group sessions. I trust the vet. teachers who always impress me with their know-how and experience than some former-teacher-cum-corporate suit. There was an inherent lack of effectiveness with this PD. I found it very odd that the new evaluation system was tucked into the seminar without any real clarification from the administrators about how it will be implemented at my school.

I was happy meet quite a few veteran teachers who gave great advice about "real life" in DCPS versus the PR version. However, the bitterness and resentment towards the Rhee/principals with regards to their treatment was both palpable and sad. Their attitudes reinforced the notion that most new teachers who remain in teaching are unlikely to remain with DCPS.

I LOVE my new school. The teachers/custodian/support staff/principals have been extremely welcoming and helpful. However, the amount of paperwork expected on a daily basis is horrifying.

The new DCPS rule about decreased suspensions while admirable has left me with quite a few ethical and liability concerns. I don't think students should be marked present if they are sent home. There will be no distinction in the official record book/Stars between those students who are present in school and those sent home yet present because they have the in class materials. This policy change was communicated verbally with no written documentation.If that student leaves school and is injured or cause harm, I still legally responsible. When is a lie a lie?

PS. Stipend not received.. another day with PBJ. Still can't log into PeopleSoft because of other HR issues.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Things I found out today about my school and DCPS

Like any new employee and DCTFers I decided to attend the employee benefits session. The good news I get benefits, however the bad news is they really are not that great. I am a former state employee and the health and medical by Blue Cross Blue/Shield was far superior. In addition, I paid LESS for more coverage. State also had a lot of extras thrown in like discount shopping at specific stores in county and city. Let's not talk about the pension and absence of a matching 401k.. oops no 403b, yes big distinction!!!!

The benefits specialist inform us that we could sign up for the Peoplesoft on DCPS site instead of waiting to go to our schools, however, we had to use a DC government computer at a school or library etc. Sounds easy. So silly me head over to the library at Eastern Market this morning in the hot sun, signed up for the library card and waited 45 minutes to use the computer. Surprise, the links don't work. I called DCPS main office who then referred me to IT helpdesk, who sent me an email link to the websites that don't work, who then referred me back DCPS HR. Got the HR voice mail that states it takes 24 hours for a response, so called the main DCPS office number, which is the Chancellor Rhee and got a receptionist who seemed truly perplexed by my question and put me hold for five minutes before directing me to the payroll office. The payroll receptionist explained that her training with PeopleSoft dictated that she directed all inquiries back to the help desk.At this point I hung up because I had my quota of "round and round" we go for the day

While in the DCPS website, I stumbled across the budget for the school for the 2010. Wow the principal makes each make over $100,000. The clincher is these two salaries alone represented 30% of the total instructional personnel budget and when I added in the custodian/foreman who makes close the $100,000 also, it rose to 42%. Yes, I rechecked my calculations!! Other interesting tidbits were the monies allocated for classroom supplies only $5000 for the entire year for 18 teachers at the minimum and 24 staff members if other instructional staff is included!!!!

Speaking of money.. I have yet to hear from DCTF on the status of the stipend checks. I planned on doing several dry runs of activities associated with my lesson plans, however, need $$ to buy basic materials. After not having a steady paycheck for four months, I am definitely not about to use personal funds at this point. In addition, I am still trying to get the teacher edition text for my class, however, the book room clerk has informed me they don't can't locate it because it is assumed to be in A box in the book room. In attempts to elicit information about when these boxes will be identified and unpacked, I was met with evasion and you just need to wait.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Random Thoughts,

Done with the Institute last week and trying to catch myself before the "fun" starts.
Still waiting on the stipend check. It has only been four days but funny how no updates were provided by the Institute managers, only a vague " we will work closely with DCPS to make certain that you get the checks before you start teaching". I wonder if my landlord will accept this excuse in lieu of a check or money order.

Finally got sorted out with the Central Office about position, pay, and IDs etc. The Central Office without a doubt is a little disorganized (lol). Nobody seemed sure what was going on. Individuals kept walking into personnel because they were told to report there by school personnel. Problem was the school personnel never informed the Central Office about who/when, or what they were sending these employees to them for. I was only sitting in the waiting area for about thirty minutes!! Why are the personnel office staff so glum? Everyone I had interaction with seem either unhappy or disgruntled. I went to wakes that were a lot more fun!!!
It is never a good idea to complain about your coworkers or management in earshot of strangers btw.

Saw on several other blogs about the Teacher Development workshops slated for week after next. I have yet to receive any correspondence from principal. Maybe I will get more info at the new teacher orientation next week. No word on when funds to buy supplies will be forthcoming.

In the interim, I will start working on the unit plan. Since I might be the only teacher for this subject,I guess I might as well have a plan in place.

PS. Willing to accept donations to my charity!! PBJ and tuna greatly appreciated

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Up to this day

This is the last week of the Summer Institute (aka teaching boot camp for new DCTFers).

While the experience has been extremely helpful there are still many shortcomings.


While I realize that I am not as fully prepared as teachers that have studied education at four year institutions, my prior experience as a non-certified teacher in another school district was extremely beneficial. In contrast, many of my colleagues are fresh-faced kids from majority environments who have no real clue about the realities they will face. The grittiness of teaching in an urban setting with the complex social, economic and racial dynamics that are part of the daily teaching experience is as foreign to them as Antarctica. There are a clear distinctions between the career-changers and the newbies. The former have held other jobs and most have graduate degrees; they are pursuing teaching because they want to teach unlike most of the latter who are passing time until they go to graduate school, or the economy improves. The career-changers are older and more seasoned, better prepared to navigate the bureaucracy and not at all naive. It is clear that many of the younger fellows will become unglued and emotional if their schools are not wired (for constant texting), or Johnny decides to have a FU teacher moment. Some fellows think they will be welcomed with open arms and treated as conquering heroes, completely unaware of the friction that exist between these programs and veteran teachers. At best I hope for indifference or tolerance. Since this is a permanent change I have time to wait for acceptance.

The program administrators have purposely downplayed (i.e not mentioned at all) the political, union, and administrative problems associated with the Rhee DCPS/Fenty administration and WTU. Thus, some DCTFer's are unaware that they might not get much administrative support, or possibly peer support from veteran teachers. This lack of awareness will be a critical factor in expediting the departure of many fellows. Sadly, I have made bets in my head about which fellows will leave by December and June. A major clue of just how little support DCTFers will receive was the attitudes of some principals and their surrogates who bothered to interview DCTFers at requisite job fairs. It was clear that many principals and surrogates attended the job fairs because they had no choice or was receiving some kind of compensation. Questions ranged from the totally inane to those unrelated to teaching or education ( no.. not the think-on-your-feet variety some prospective employers ask.. think WTF and not in a good way) while other interviewers were so plainly disinterested with the interview process that I felt sorry for them!!! During one of my "interviews" a surrogate talked about the Subway sandwich she was eating for five minutes while her colleague played games on his phone. Yep, they never asked me a question, just took the resume and had me give an email address. Several principals spoke at length about the administrative pressures they faced in turning their school around and satisfying the Central office directives, yet,virtually nothing was said about substantive academic initiatives unrelated to the DC-CAS. It was clear the focus was not teaching and instruction only the almighty test scores.
My personal favorite were the ego-driven principals who demanded job offer acceptance on the spot, it seemed foreign to them that a DCTF could ask for a few days to think about the offer. This attitude was unreasonable and scary. ( Yes, I checked out many of the schools before interviewing. However, the schools that advertised vacancies were not always the ones that attended job fairs and if they did they were sometimes seeking teachers for unadvertised vacancies.) I suspect many principals don't mind a few "expendable " DCTFers to give the appearance of supporting this alternative licensing program. Alternatively, I think this autocratic approach to administrating is indicative of their less-than-superior managerial style and clear warning that staff issues abound.

The Practical Teaching Experience.

This provided some ground experience but it is not enough for first timers. Luckily, I have taught before, but most DCTFers have not. In addition, fellows only began teaching a full class last week. This amount to six hours of teaching time for one week at the maximum since most summer students do not begin arriving at school until 45 minutes AFTER the scheduled start of class. When compared to the regular school day and week.. six hours of teaching time is literally a drop in the bucket. In addition, few classes even approach regular school size. In my class, twenty-five students are registered but only seven have attended, and not all on the same day.

The quality of some of the cooperating teachers (CT- those teachers teaching summer school who have agreed to have DCTFers in their class) is questionable. Some teachers have been excellent while other fellows have complained that their CTs read like a manual of what-not-to-do if you become a teacher. Since the Institute is is teaching boot camp, it would best be served by veteran master teachers with at least a minimum of ten years experience. However, most CTs volunteered so the DCTF administrators really could not be picky about the selection process.

The Summer School is a mess but this is more of a reflection on DCPS than DCTF. It still boggles my mind why content areas besides English and Maths are taught. Most of the kids in my class obviously failed because their reading and maths skills are far below their grade level. Even more ridiculous,these are high-schoolers who are slated to graduate next week. I think that Summer School should be restructured as an intensive English and Math program.

I have some more stuff to share so I will post later in the week.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

So Far.

Hello All and Welcome

I wanted to share my journey as a first year DC Teaching Fellow (DCTF)- the ups and downs, the victories and defeats, the chaotic system aka DC Public School System (DCPS).