Monday, February 6, 2012

Teachers and Teaching

Hello again-

Sorry it took so long for another post.  This last week has been especially tiring on my end.  I'm used to having a relatively mellow existence outside of school but the last week has been anything but relaxing.

There have been some rumors floating around regarding the sick-out.  I have heard plans of district retribution, of "black-listing," and other horror stories of the potential downfall we all face if we use a day on the 29th.  I have seen no documentation, whether hard copy or e-mail, that would confirm any of these stories.  So as of right now, I regard them as rumors only.  Whether generated by a paranoid teacher or an administrator who is sweating the prospect of empty classrooms, I cannot say.

I have received some information about campus administrators who have been distributing a "letter of intent" to their staff, requiring them to sign a document declaring their intent to remain on campus and to abide by the extended schedule.  If you have been handed a similar letter, please let me know.

What amazes me is the haphazard implementation of the new work schedule.  The board approved the new schedule yet left the principals sole discretion as to how the new time was utilized. Principals were given approximately three days to develop a comprehensive plan on how the new time would be spent on their campuses.  Three days?  Is this truly enough time to formulate any plan, much less a comprehensive one?  Is this enough time to gather feedback from faculty or sit down with instructional leadership and honestly discuss how this time can be used effectively?

Once again, DISD does something last minute and with little thought invested.

In other news, neither the board nor the interim superintendent have mentioned the proposed sick-out, whether in writing or in the media.  I expected as much.  As I mentioned before, I believe their strategy is to simply wait us out and hope it all goes away.  If the board has not addressed us, then perhaps I will need to address the board.  More on that soon.

Some have asked me if I think this sick-out idea is really going to work or if I believe the board will reverse its decision.  I am hesitant to provide an honest answer here, for honesty in this light will probably seem detrimental to my cause.  However, I do not believe that the added time is going away.  Whether 33% or even 100% of us call in sick on February 29th, we will return on March 1st, and the board will have weathered this storm.  The history of labor relations in America shows that a single day action, like the one I am suggesting, is destined to fail.  The only proven method to force management to the negotiating table is a full strike.  The legality of a strike in Texas aside, no educator would even consider such a thing.  One day is one day, but the students in Dallas simply cannot afford for us to be gone for the time necessary to get our voices heard.  What I expect to happen is teachers will call in on Leap Day, the news will report it, and the public will  forget it sometime around the second of March.

Then, if I don't expect us to get what we want, then why do it at all?

The answer to this question is simple.  I love education.  I enjoy the art of teaching, the look on a kid's face when they finally understand what you have been teaching them all week, the satisfaction of knowing that I played a role in the development of a young person's life.  I cherish every laugh that I share with the students,  the joy we share in their successes and the opportunity to help them bounce back from defeats.  I especially like doing so in Dallas, a place where I feel as though I am needed, more so than in our surrounding communities.  I want to spend the rest of my life gathering year after year of memories.  I hope to meet some of these young people again when they become adults and have one of them, just one, thank me for my hard work.

I love teaching, but for the first time in my life I am becoming dissatisfied with being a teacher. 

And it isn't just me.  There are some younger people in my building who are incredibly talented; people who I know will soon develop into teachers that I could only dream of being.  I envy their talent, and I know how desperately they are needed in education. Yet they will eventually leave.  Their exit will not be a case of "normal attrition," rather it will be a direct result of the policy decisions of district leadership.

We have given the district so much already and we will never get any of it back.  We cannot continue to give more concessions to the board, for if we do, we will never be able to recruit the next generation of talented educators.

So no, I do not expect the board to reverse its decision.  I do not believe I ever truly did.  All I expect is for our board to stop for a minute, just one minute, and ask themselves if their next policy change is going to make Dallas attract talent or repel it.

Keep on teaching, and try to forget how hard it is becoming to be a teacher.

-Mr. Jones


  1. I taught in DISD way back when in the 70's. It was in the East Oak Cliff sub-district. Even then they were beyond any point of no return at least, in that neighborhood. They opened up a new high school with absolutely nothing in terms of supplies and equipment needed. In addition they made us stay every Friday late for a faculty meeting. Sad to say it was nothing much more than a bunch of very, very fat women singing and preaching, like they were some kind of gospel church administrators. Each and every week an utter joke.

    It was their method then, to lord it over the teachers and "strut their stuff" as if they were God-sends for the salvation of education. Sad thing is, they didn't have a clue.

    I doubt if you can change anything in DISD but I admire the effort. As I have stated here before, the administration are to serve the teachers, not visa versa. They can be the boss of student discipline, but not the classroom, nor the teachers. They don't need to be the evaluators nor do they need to be telling teachers how to teach. The former home-ec teacher, turned administrator, should not be telling science teachers how to conduct labs, nor dictate the use of tiresome teaching techniques which detract from the basics , nor should they insist that the students come out of your classrooms every day shouting for joy over how much "fun" they had. In fact, the administration needs to be telling the students to get off their butts and work at learning, hard. The teachers shouldn't be put in the position of treating students like "customers" but should rather be put in the position of having something the students desperately need, no matter what the effort needed or how much "fun" it is not. That tone is set by the district and the administration and the school board. Thus would be born the environment for teaching and learning.

  2. Amen. Thank you, I can't wait to quit

  3. According to the Dallas ISD Board Highlights email of 1/27/12, the Board, "....Approved extending the teachers’ workday beginning with the 2012-2013 school year to eight hours, plus 30 minutes for lunch. The time will be used for professional development, planning, professional learning communities, and tutoring as determined by the principal and school leadership. Principals will work with their staff to determine scheduling of the extended time."

    Of course, this is just an official email, but I have heard nothing to the contrary at my school. We are still status quo - 7hr 45 min.

    Anyway, just more grist for the mill. Thanks for standing up!

  4. Teachers are afraid very afraid of losing their jobs if they are not at school on the 29th. They will be seen as trouble makers and fear reprisals from administration. At my school, teachers are so used to being bullied and intimidated by the administration that many close their doors and are even afraid to speak freely to each other about how they are feeling. I see it all and have tried to rally teachers, but they have been beaten down. I actually had an administrator tell me last week that having my students read silently in the classroom is not helping them. Yet, this same administrator forces students to bring their books to lunch so they can read silently during indoor recess. No wonder they don't like to read. Not one reading teacher spoke up in their defense. It saddens me to see the great teachers of DISD weakened to the point they not only can't stick up for themselves, but can't for their students either. Annie

  5. Just another example of administrators telling teachers how to teach. They want it all fun and yippy skippy because when a parent complains to the school board, they pass it on to the admin building who in turn passes it on to the principal, etc, etc. In the process of passing it down the ladder they all become fearful that the school board will try to get rid of them and that is also passed on down. I have alwayss said that principals have reached the penacle of their potential and will do anything at all to protect that position; even to the point of denying ethics. Of course the school board is motivated by the wish to be re-elected. If they were'nt elected but were appointed by the teachers much of the bullying would go away. Additionally, the state holds funding over their heads as a constant threat which in turn puts pressure on the admin and thus on the principals and thus on the teachers. Its a viscious cycle. Throw into that the fact that the parents are clueless about what education should be and you have the recipe for failure. If the kids wanted the education and not just the diploma, things would be a bit different also. That comes from the parents. Basically, parents and administrators don't need to be telling teachers how to teach. Period. The incompetent teacher is obvious to all. Let the department heads direct the teachers and coordinate their activities. Principals need to be involved in discipline and school environment. They have no business telling teachers how to teach AT ALL.

  6. Its a pity that so few teachers in DISD have the balls to speak up on the issues in DISD. It might be interesting to see what their take is on why DISD is such a poor(as in lousy) district and districts like Plano ISD are so successful at educating their students. That's a discussion that needs to take place if DISD is ever to pull themselves out of the mire.

  7. I received a "Letter of Intent" at my campus, but I didn't think anything of it. I've been filling letters of intent out for years. The principals are getting ready to meet with higher-ups to get their projected enrollments for next year to determine staffing. We are told principals use these letters of intent to determine whether they are going to have to make new hires for next year or release people based on what the school's projected enrollment will be. All I know is, I tell them I plan to be back whether it is true or not.

  8. When will we have enough????? Today, I was told by the Liason (?) that I had to have the boys fill out a response about what they learned from the movie - ASAP!!!!!- emphasis on the ASAP! I wondered if they included gender discrimination, which is what I taught them. I feel sorry for the children of DISD. They don't stand a chance with the administration and corruption they've been stuck with for years. Today I was told by my principal that children in our elementary school could NOT have a Valentine's Day party. However third graders may pay to go to a dance afterschool. Children at my school are forced to read in a dark auditorium at lunchtime for recess. What is happening? When you give your power away, the bullies will not stop. I for one think we should unite and get rid of the board just for starters. I'm embarrassed to work for DISD. Annie