Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Commentary on the Leap Day Sick Out

Dear Readers-

As many of you have already heard, the district is reporting that the number of teachers calling in today is 13% below normal.  Am I surprised by this?  Absolutely not.  In fact, it would not surprise me if a number of people who came in today did so to avoid any form of retribution.  I have been addressing the issue of fear throughout this last week because I knew if anything could shut down this movement, it would be the fear.

In the end, the fear won.

The news media is already calling the Sick Out a failure, and based on numbers alone I would have to agree.  There is no denying that I had hoped for a greater participation, but before I raise the white flag, I would like to point to a few successes:

-For a few weeks, much attention has been paid to the working conditions within the Dallas Independent School District.  Teachers have had the opportunity to voice their concerns, express their dissatisfaction, and highlight the disrespect they have experienced at the hands of the board.

-The district, at least for a day, was shaking in their boots in a way that the union could never have achieved.  From their 11th hour plea to principals to develop some form of action plan for the Sick Out, it was apparent that a cage or two was rattled.

-Some of us found our voice.  Many people who have been on the sidelines and watched the union try their hand at "representing" us have continually found AFT/Alliance's inability to produce results frustrating.  For once, they felt as if someone was trying to do something.

If the district's self-reported absence numbers are true, then it is safe to say that the Sick Out will produce no changes.  Of course, I was under no illusion that there would be some massive revolution in district policy as a result, but I refuse to remain silent any longer.

The results of today's sick out are disappointing, but I remind myself of what I always tell my students who get nervous or are reluctant to perform a task because, as they say, "It's too hard."

"If you don't try, I promise you, you will not succeed.  There is no shame in trying and failing, because at least you had the courage to try.  Give it a shot, try your best, and you may surprise yourself."

Those of us who are absent today have at least one card to hold in our pockets.  When the next change comes down, the next unfair policy is voted on behind closed doors, and our colleagues grumble and groan, we can pull out that card and hand it to them.  It would read:

"Quit complaining.  
I tried to do something.  
You shook in fear and did nothing.
Now take your medicine."  

-Mr. Jones


  1. You go Jones. I am making my cards with that missive now.
    To do nothing was to bow to fear. Too bad that so many of us have no backbone and are easily intimidated. I am not one of those thank God. Tomorrow is another day. Look out for the naysayers, and I told you so'ers.....You are right and they are wrong.

  2. Or maybe they just didn't agree with you.

  3. It seems evident that there really is a culture of fear and bullying, especially if attendance was higher than normal today because, as Jon Dahlander said, sick and injured teachers were on campus who normally would not be.

  4. Well, you bring up some good points. I hope that you continue to blog and give DISD teachers this venue to compare notes. With so many schools, we are all really kind of isolated and detached from one another. DISD doesn't have to divide and conquer because we are already divided by the logistics of the job. School A has no idea what school B is doing and so on. It is hard to get organized like that. But, if teachers have a central location in which to conglomerate and discuss issues that concern them, maybe the amount of followers here will grow. And as the followers grow, so would our influence. We could have discussions on other ways to be heard. Target our votes towards the right politicians, whistleblow when there's an opportunity to expose an injustice, a sorry administrator, a bad decision and so on. I will keep reading and contributing if you keep posting and giving me the opportunity to participate. That's more opportunity at participation than my employer and school board gives me, that's for sure.

    1. I agree. Don't give up; this is only the beginning. We'll just have to find another way to be heard.

  5. Mr. Dahlander stated in his interview on WFAA today that students needed more time with their teachers...did they finally decide what the extra 45 minutes will be used for? I still don't think it will be for teaching. Mr. Dahlander was also so full of praise for what a wonderful job DISD teachers do and have done that I am wondering why they felt the need to mandate the extra time. I mean if things are going as well as they say, then we are capable of doing the work without being micromanaged.

    Thank you Mr. Jones for getting us to talk and some of us to move.

  6. I am a retired DISD teacher and I agree with you wholeheartedly. Teachers and the USA populus in general are going to have to step up and face the powers that be and say in unison, "That's enough!" How does anyone think that working an extra 18 days without pay is okay, unless they are ready to be enslaved and bow again and again to the "master." It is unintelligent on teachers' part to put up with it. I guess teachers have no time to pay attention to what is happening with the "occupy" movements here in the USA and all around the world. We need to wake up here in Dallas and reclaim our humanity and dignity. Shame on all of the DISD board members - they are obviously working for the One Percent. Watch and see how eventually, very soon, DISD powers will continue to undermine public education for "private" schools. Those private schools will come as Charter schools because they will be funded with our tax dollar. Yes, just as prisons have been privatized, so will public schools. Then those teachers who need a job will work in these private schools without a voice and without a tongue!

  7. Teacher Who Cares About Students and Co-WorkersFebruary 29, 2012 at 7:10 PM

    Call the rest of the teachers cowards, but don't forget who was stuck covering your class, monitoring the halls in your absence, helping your sub keep control of your students. Not to mention the fact that your students had a field day in your absence and were plenty happy to find that you and perhaps some of their other teachers were missing from their classrooms today. But don't worry, the rest of us did our very best to maintain order. I'm sure you're thinking that we should have just called in as well and it wouldn't have been our problem...but isn't that the exact issue we face working in DISD? (Not my problem, not my student, not my responsibility, not my job, nothing I can do about it, etc)...Sure, we could have all called in and screwed our hard working principal, but would that matter to the School Board? Way to stick it to the man today "sick" teachers. You're welcome from the rest of us who had to pick up your slack. I appreciate your message, but disagree with your methods.

    1. I agree with Teacher Who Cares About Students and Co-Workers...We were the ones picking up the slack..It was funny to hear from my collegues about all the reasons why people were calling in that day..

  8. Some have said that taking today off was putting ourselves above the kids.
    I could not go in today because to do so would betray everything I have taught them about standing up for what is right.
    Thank you for giving me an opportunity to be brave, brother. Thank you for giving all of us a chance to be in solidarity and showing the corrupt, abusive, exploitative system that we are up against. Teachers came in who were sick and injured on my campus out of fear and that is disgusting.
    I hope to see plenty of black-clad colleagues tomorrow. From the death of this system should arise a new, better system where the students and teachers will be the loudest voices and will drown out the bosses and the bureaucrats, who will be forced to serve rather than subjugate.

  9. My opinion is Mr. Coward set teachers back with DISD. They will clam up on everything now. Had he done this by organizing and gathering facts before he started this misaligned uneducated effort it may have had a chance.

    You made a mockery at the DISD meetings with your Occupy members, acting unprofessional at their board room, and masked picketers.

    My 10th graders act more professional than you.

  10. I'm really torn with you teachers and try to sympathize, but it's hard to. In the free market, we have had to deal with job cuts and longer days. I feel some of you have the entitlement mentality and that definitely is not good to teach our kids. It's better to teach them that life sometimes sucks and if you don't like your job, get another one. No matter how you try to justify it, NOT going to work is a horrible example to teach kids --- especially in DISD where the majority of parents already show them this example.
    Just for arguements sake, let's say DISD decided to pay all of you $100k/yr and gave you a guaranteed 4 months off and 6 hour workday. My guess is that this scenerio is the nirvana of teachers. Unfortunately if this ever came to be, none of you would have a job. The free market shows that you are willing to teach with the current pay and conditions. If the hypothetical nirvana were implemented, better qualified people would apply and the majority of today's teachers would be without a job. So..... keeping fighting the "good fight" until you are out of a job. Until then, be grateful for what you have and realize that your biggest reward is that you do make a difference in a kid's life.

  11. To the non sympathizer above,

    I challenge you and any other "better qualified" adult to come and do the work many of us in Dallas do. You can smugly claim that if the salary were higher we (current teachers) would be without a job. While that might be true hypothetically, I can predict (hypothetically) that you wouldn't last. You would not make it in an urban school district, working against the poverty, ignorance, and abuse, that directly affects so many in our school community.

    Unlike the free market you reference, education is not a free market profession. The best does not get paid more. The hardest working does not get the most recognition, or stock options, or bonuses. No, the hard working, effective teachers might get a smile from a student, a chocolate from a parent, or in most cases nothing at all. Often, as is the case now, we read condescending remarks from the clueless public. But, that does not make the profession any less valuable that yours.

    I am very grateful for the difference I make in the lives of my students. That's why I keep teaching. I just wish arrogant, uninformed, jack asses like you would stop passing judgment of what is really a noble profession in America.

    -A Highly Qualified Dallas ISD Educator

  12. How funny. You erased my comment from yesterday. Boo to you.

  13. I've noticed a real divide in the teachers that have participated in this forum of discussion. There are those teachers that are willing to swing wildly for change, and then there are those teachers that agree with the message being presented but not the way to achieve that message.

    I tend to side with the second group.

    I'm not sure what the best approach or method is to exorcising the bully mentality out of Central Office, but I do know that this sick-out was a proposterous idea. The idea is simple, but it puts every single teacher at risk of losing their position with the district. Any teacher that is unsure about their standing within their school should (and did) balk at the idea of putting themselves up for early retirement. The job cuts that the district is going to propose in the future would have disappeared, because they would have been allowed to cherry-pick the worst of the group [that participated in the sick-out]. Publicly, the idea of a RIF is disgusting, and public perception plays a great deal into the strategies the district implements. Allowing the district to forego any kind of public relations nightmare is foolish, and a high participation rate in your proposed plan to call in sick would have given the district a free pass. Central Office employees like Jon Dahlander would have personally thanked you for your efforts.

    As an active member of the community, teacher, and public servant, I think we need to think beyond the day-to-day and approach the issues on a broader scope. Why is the district changing policy to make it easier to rid itself of employees? Why is there less funding? Where does the money go?

    Also, to the teachers who read this blog...Have you been to a School Board meeting lately? The non-sympathizers will only increase until it is clear that all other channels have been exhausted. That means develop your skills, diversify, get/stay involved...