I went into teaching as a second career and have spent the last five years in an Urban School District (USD). It is a district where all of the buildings have at least 80% free and reduced lunch eligible students. The students have a wide variety of backgrounds in terms of ethnicity, culture, work ethic, and ability.
After five years, I had to quit and go to a different school system. Sometimes I wonder if it would be better off going back into industry instead of teaching. But I'm stubborn and won't give up that easily.
Today I went to the school board and told them why I had resigned. All names have been changed and the school district is now designated by the acronym USD.
We have three minutes to speak and my text was four and a half minutes long, so the italics is the written, but unspoken record. The full text was handed to the recording secretary.
Dear esteemed board members, Dr. Anonymous, USD staff and interested citizens, my name is First Last. I live in Smaller City and I have worked for USD for five years. I have worked in three high school programs (XX alternative education, Themed Magnet HS, and the USD 3 day math rotation). I have worked in four high schools under six principals in six classrooms.
I work with amazing math colleagues in this district. They are knowledgeable, are willing to try new methods, and work hard to help all the students learn the material by coming in early, staying late, calling parents, and using outside resources. Wonder Woman is probably your best asset at Headquarters as she is a fantastic Curriculum Director. She works well with the math staff in the district and puts together useful professional developments. The math staff consider ourselves lucky for seeming to always be ahead of the curve of any new information coming through the system including implementation of the new Common Core Curriculum. I am grateful to have been able to work with incredible teachers in each building especially the Department Chairs and DL coaches.
I come to you today to let you know why after working in this district for five years, I have tendered my resignation to work in another district. A district in which I will start at a much lower pay scale than what I was receiving.
In my new district, I knew what classes I will be teaching each period for the entire year on June 8. I have seen the classroom I will be working in and have access to it. I have books, curriculum, and contacts for other teachers who can let me know what resources are available and show me where they are. I know that my classes will have no more than 30 students. I know that classes will start on-time, students will bring their books and notebooks, and pay attention. Passing classes will require good attendance and assignments will be handed in on time or they will be either marked down or given no credit. I will be teaching teach physics which was my major in college.
In USD, teachers beg to know what classes they will teach often up to the week before school starts. They are lucky if they actually know before classes begin or even a couple of weeks into the school year as schedules often change. Teachers are expected to teach classes they were not planning on and teach classes that they have no curriculum for. Teachers are asked to prepare hands on lessons (DL), but since there is no real attendance policy, they then need to figure out how to teach the students who daily miss those learning opportunities. Students never learn that a deadline is important since they are basically told that they can keep trying to take tests as many times as they need and ignore their assignments until the very end. The students then do the bare minimum of work to pass the class. This actually causes the teachers to work more as they are grading the same assignment over and over. Effort based education is supposed to focus on the effort of the student, not the effort of the teacher.
Classes are going to be set up for 45-50 students per class this upcoming year. Rotations will be down to 2 days, but that is still much less stability than our at risk students need. Principals in the district have no ability to really deal with discipline as problem students are shunted around from building to building. Students who are in school only for their personal business are allowed to disrupt classes (just check the suspension logs for students who have multiple suspensions for drug selling and you’ll see what I mean). Security allows students to walk around talking and texting on their cell phones without taking them. How are teachers supposed to take cell phones when security refuses to do their job?
In USD, all science teachers need to be general science certified, so even though in my quadrant of the school building last year we had math teachers who were certified to teach biology, chemistry and physics, the building [XX High School] was short up to three science teachers for the better part of last year. For many of our students, this is a continuation of having substitutes in critical positions for multiple years. I had many students last year tell me that “they hadn’t learned that in middle school” because they had subs in math for an entire year.
Michigan has a surplus of teachers, how is it that there are math and science teacher openings all year in this district? Can it possibly can be the fact that either they can make more money in the private sector or they know they can get a job someplace else where they are more respected.
When you look for a new superintendant, please make sure it is someone who truly understands how high schools work and can figure out why hubs are a failure in terms of school spirit, if not dollars. A superintendent who has taught enough to know what is actually useful to improve student achievement. And lastly, a superintendent who respects the people working in the district to work with them, listening and not bullying, for common solution to this districts problems.