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Friday, September 14, 2012

Should I bother to learn the new teacher's name?

Once again we have a new language teacher at our school. I'm debating whether or not I should learn his name, as everyone at my school (except him) knows he is merely a temporary employee. Across the near decade that I have worked at my school, we have employed at least eight different foreign language teachers (it could be more but my memory gets fuzzy when I think back to year one and two).

Some people think it is difficult to fire teaching staff. Well if that is true, I have seen no evidence of it. My principal goes through staff at an alarming rate. Easily a quarter of the staff changes every year, most notably special education teachers and those who teach the "extras" - foreign language, arts/music and ELL instructors. Why do they come and go like Kardashian love interests?

That interesting question is one that the administration should be examining but of course, never has. That would require insight, oversight, planning and a wee bit of empathy. All of which are in as short supply as copy paper in June.

In my opinion, there are two main reasons we experience such high turnover. First, we hire teachers who we know are temporary. My school has hired a number of Teach for America members who knew they would not be staying in the profession never mind at our school. Typically at the end of year two but sometimes at the end of year three, they give their notice. Personally I have liked the TFA people I worked with. They have energy and access to many resources but while working at an inner-city school for 370 days may be good for their resumes, it is not good for our school community. The second reason staff passes through like Taco Bell through the digestive track has to do with the nature of certain teaching positions. Some teachers, like the music teacher, are responsible for providing instruction to the entire student body. That is an amazingly difficult thing to do. It is hard to learn the names of more than 200 hundred students. It is near impossible to form the relationships with students that foster academic and emotional growth. But rather than help these staffers meet the unique challenges of their positions by modifying assignments or offering extra supports, our management team just fires them or refuses to grant tenure or makes their lives so miserable they quit.

ELA and math teachers practically crawl with the weight of accountability heaped upon them. So why aren't administrators held accountable for their inability to maintain a stable staff? Hell if I know but then again, I don't even know the Spanish teacher's name.

1 comment:

  1. I've never put words to this, but I realized just last year how few new teachers I knew. I don't think it has been on purpose, but I just stopped trying to get to know people who haven't been around at least 3-5 years. They're typically not fired at our school, but being near a major University, we get a fair number of people who move on after just a few years.

    If they're getting fired, it's a different story, but I've wondered if my lack of regard (and others like me) aren't partially to blame for some of them moving on. Anyway, I've tried to be better this year.

    So, to answer your question, Yes. It's hard and emotionally draining, but in the end, it is the human thing to do and the more we hold on to our humanity, the less we're likely to let ourselves get beaten up (or beaten down)