Bureaucracy Run Amok

I stumbled upon the commentary below after reading, and opining about, a reblogged post at Larry Cuban’s site. [1]

I repost this commentary as I believe Stephen, the commenter, speaks truthfully about the ignorance embodied in bureaucracy as well as the disdain it evokes (as a coping mechanism) in the very people who wish to lend their lives in the name of public service.  Bureaucracy run amok ultimately perpetuates the havoc wreaked upon students in public school environments, especially in schools generally unfit for learning anything aside from how to survive in their hostile situations irrespective of the significant efforts of thoughtful, caring teachers and administrators.

In my brief time teaching, I have run across similar situations, of much lower intensity, yet similar enough for me to identify with what Stephen writes.

It truly is a shame that the Stephen’s of our teaching profession continue to experience these situations.  So much must be improved in public education if we expect student outcomes in underserved districts and schools to change in any healthy, sustainable fashion.  Sadly as a nation, we are not improving the education of our populace in the degree and fashion needed to sustain healthy society over the long-term.  This must change.

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Hi Elie,

I too until recently was a teacher at LAUSD’s Crenshaw High School and was enrolled in the District intern program after serving as a substitute teacher for 9 years. No one can deny my dedication to my job, I was prepared every day and was focused on helping disadvantaged students learn math. Before my carreer in education I was a senior production illustrator in the film industry, I entered the classroom with a strong desire to serve the needs of all of my students. I chose math even though my passion is in the arts because it is often a way towards a meaningful carreer and provides a path out of poverty. I sacrificed, taking several tests, and enrolling in the District Intern Program which required me to teach and learn at the same time.  From the outset my experience with LAUSD has been on of frustration and revulsion at the graft, corruption, and incompetence exhibited by the administration and leadership of this school district.

I graduated in 2012 from the D.I. program, earning a preliminary credential in Single Subject Math and was prepared to start BTSA to clear my credential,expecting that I was going to be on staff for the second year at Crenshaw High School. What transpired the next fall was all part of John Deazy’s plan to get rid of veteran teachers and unburdening LAUSD of having to pay their higher salaries. I was placed in the teacher substitute pool and was told that I had to answer to a ‘teacher quality specialist’ that would ‘help’ me to find a position. What this person’s real job was to try to find any excuse to write up as many veteran teachers as she could, needless to say she was useless in her apparent job to place me in a position. I was in effect I was told that it was my responsibility to find a position, and that I could not participate in BTSA because I did not occupy a permanent teaching position. I soldiered on during that fall doing the competent job I had done for years as a substitute teacher working in some of the most challenging schools in the district.

What I saw during this time was principals that behaved like tyrants, administrators that were unhelpful or incompetent and students that were served poorly by LAUSD.I still went out on interviews and did my best to teach the students in my charge . I felt disempowered by system and increasingly indignant at the way I was being treated, but no one , including my union wanted to help. I was placed in a disadvantaged position since being assigned as a ‘pool teacher’ made me a marked man by implying that I was placed there because I was incompetent in the eyes of principals that could hire me even though I had recieved nothing but favorable evaluations.

Despite this I was not about to quit so when a math position opened up in the spring at Crenshaw high school I jumped at the chance to interview at the school I had taught at the previous year. I did well when the hiring committee interviewed me (some of the members were colleagues who had seen me teach before) and was hired without being interviewed by the principal.

I entered my teaching assignment at one of the lowest achieving high schools in the state three weeks into the semester. What I walked into was utter chaos, a flood of substitute teachers had come and gone and needless to say student behavior was conducive to learning math, and the students were by and large not at grade level in any of my 6 classes. I wrote a letter to the princepal outlining my strategies and asking for the things I needed to be successful, he spoke to me briefly saying that he would address these issues but in the end he did nothing. I took the ball in my hands and contacted as many of the students parents that I could introducing myself, explaining what I wanted to accomplish for their children, and when necessary informing them of their son’s or daughter’s inappropriate behavior. it took the administrators at Crenshaw 2 weeks to get me the teachers editions of the textbook I needed to teach 4 different classes, Algebra 1. Algebra 2, Geometry, and remedial math (that’s right 4 different preps!).

Despite my repeated requests for an LCD projector to project problems and solutions on the white board, I was never given one because some incompetent administrator had ordered the wrong bulbs for all of the projectors at the school and I was told that we had already exceeded our budget for technology. I dealt with all of the discipline problems and made progress in fostering a positive learning environment for all of my students. I brought food for them to offer incentives for them , I stayed in at lunch and nutrition, I stayed 2to 3 hours after school organizing my classroom and making myself available for tutoring (I had few takers). My work day started at 5:00 am and often ended at 10:00. In summary I did everything I was trained to do , I put my heart and soul into my job and I challenge anyone to do better.

What happened next was surreal, in February, I was notified by my Teacher Quality Specialist that I would not be asked back to teach for LAUSD the next fall. I met with this person and was told that the reason that I was not invited back was that I did not occupy a permanent position. I asked the principal why I was given a non reelect; his response was that he knew nothing of this and that he had no reason to issue me one. My teacher quality speciialist met with my principal, afterwhich I discussed my tenure at Crenshaw with him and asked him why I was being treated the way I had been, he just equivicated and I never got a straight answer from him. My only course of action to preserve my reputation as a teacher was to resign ( a non-reelect on a teacher’s record is the kiss of death). So I did, the only time in my life that I have walked away from a challenge.What else could I do? It was impractical suing LAUSD since they have a substantial budget for legal services and I longer have a job.So I have moved on.

The point in telling my story is so that you know that competent ,dedicated teachers are being unjustly forced out by a corrupt , and ineffective school district, the story I have told you is being perpetrated on other undeserving teachers as we speak.Where are our constitutional rightst? We are being subjected to a devious and cruel plot to get rid of veteran teachers, or anyone that question John Deazy’s and the school boards corrupt plans to privatize LAUSD.

If you don’t believe me , follow the money ( Eli Broad, Bill Gates, Ex NYC Mayor Bloomberg). Veteran teachers are the lifeblood of an effective teacher corps.Let’s see where student achievement and graduation rates are in 5 years (good luck with common core!).My reward for wanting to help adolescents to better their lives through learning Math is that I, along with many great teachers are being thrown under the (school) bus and blamed for student failure by the people that are causing it.

I doubt that I will continue in my teaching carrreer since the climate for teachers is one of disrespect , blame, and disdain, so I feel free to ask this question: Where will you find teachers that want to make a difference in young people’s lives, to help them find a brighter future when the conditions they are subjected to are unjust, untenable and ultimately antagonistic. Whenever I hear any thing about LAUSD these days I feel disgust at the thought of having been vicimized by the bully’s that run the districtand the special interests that back them and the hurtful lies the promulgate about dedicated teachers daily.

 

[1]  While I separated some of Stephen’s text into different paragraphs to aid in readability, I left other typos, misspellings, etc.  I do not fault him as his text editor may not have indicated the misspellings; he also, likely, felt very emotional when typing his comments and in his haste may have overlooked his mistakes in standard written english.  I am glad he took the time to share his thoughts.

Posted in Political, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

The Kid I Didn’t Kill (Ellie Herman)

Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher:

Re-blogging this latest post from Larry Cuban as well…

Ellie nailed it. In my brief time teaching, especially this past school year, I lived these moments too often. So much so I sought respite from teaching algebra (where mostly freshman struggle behaviorally with their transition to high school) this coming school year. I broke under the stress and strain of too many students like Gio, Fernie, Tiffany, and Peter feeding off of each others challenges in a classroom, destroying the learning environment and nearly everything around them, metaphysically speaking.

The irony is I became a teacher with the (naive) hope of helping just these students but now realize I, as a teacher of many, am unable to salve the deep wounds of the few in any material manner as the staccato nature of their outbursts were too difficult to predict or to address while directing the learning of dozens of others.

Each of the following quotes from Ellie’s piece resonate deeply with me.

Once, I had three in one class, turning it into a Lord of the Flies situation with clusters of high-achieving girls taking me aside in a weeping, enraged circle and demanding that the three boys with extreme behavior problems be removed permanently from the class.

“Teaching,” Cynthia Castillo told me, “is an act of faith.” I remember. I hope to get there.

Originally posted on Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice:

Taken from “About” in Herman’s blog:

My name is Ellie Herman.  If you want to find out what I’m doing here and why, click here on why I’m writing this blog.  I’ve been working on this project since the beginning of September….

As for my bio, I’m a writer and English teacher.  From 2007 to 2013, I taught Drama, Advanced Drama, Creative Writing, English 11 and 9th grade Composition at a charter high school in South Los Angeles.

Before that, I was a writer/producer for many TV shows, including The Riches, Desperate Housewives, Chicago Hope and Newhart.  My fiction has appeared in many literary journals, including The Massachusetts Review, The Missouri Review and the O.Henry Awards Collection.

I attended public schools in Winnetka, Illinois from kindergarten through high school and graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a degree in English.  I have a teaching credential from Cal State Northridge.  My three children attended Oakwood School, a private school…

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Teacher Humor re: Differentiated Instruction

A comment made by CA Maestra to my recent post Brothers from Another Mother: Management Fads and Educational Policies included a link to a YouTube video that lampoons what some call a fad, while others are dead serious about the theory and its application.  Its name? Differentiated Instruction.

For what it is worth, I found the tongue-in-cheek video to be hilarious.  If you cannot laugh at yourself, and your predicament, then you miss out on the joy of living, and may have resigned yourself to the utter futility of it all; no one wins in that situation.  While there are definite needs for, and benefits to, differentiated instruction, its trite use by so many dilutes its value, and undermines the need it was designed to serve.   Like all political humor, there is bitter truth wrapped in a comedic croissant.  Peel back the layers and understand the basis for the humor, and true justice may be served as (most) experienced teachers know best whether it is feasible or not to apply [fill in the blank] teaching theory in their classroom with their students given the unique circumstances of each.

Watch the video and let me know your thoughts.  Please keep comments clean and productive.

Posted in Humor, Pedagogy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments