I’ve been looking for new schools. I enjoy being a teacher. (Maybe my next post will be a list of all the wonderful things about teaching my class… because there are tons). Yet there are things that I just can’t stand by and watch anymore. I need to be at a school that encourages collaboration vertically and across, a school that promotes work-life balance, and a school that has a positive environment, or at least discipline. Basically, no more fear.
On Friday, our PE teacher was fired. If I were him, this is what my resume would include:
- - taught six 50-minute sessions of rigorous PE a day, 4 days a week.
- - started boys’ soccer program where he ran practices 3x/week, tutored boys after school, and coached games.
- - set a 2.8 GPA requirement that inspired many borderline students to apply themselves, get help, and succeed.
- - 3rd quarter, boys’ soccer team had many “most improved” awards and honor roll students.
- - heavily assisted inaugural girls’ unofficial soccer program and coached girls 1x/week
- - Patrolled front of school 15 minutes before and after school.
- - implemented school safety drills (earthquake/fire) and ran a safety info session.
- - did pull-out tutoring on Fridays for students with learning needs.
- - mentored students with behavioral and discipline problems.
- - ran detentions after school from 3-4pm.
According to him, he was let go because he was written up once for being late, and was late again this second time. I believe him, because our school would do that. It’s frustrating to me that our school micromanages our principals so that they micromanage us in weird tiny things (like homework amount – don’t you trust teachers to give the proper amount of homework?- or lesson plans), but don’t micromanage the larger things like whether or not it’s appropriate to let a teacher go with 6 weeks left of school!
Now, why would this be detrimental? There is such a large hole, and my students are understandably sad. Morale is low, and of course, as teachers, this does nothing to assure us of job security. “Students first”? Mmhmm. This is in no way putting students first. Getting rid of a teacher who could actually connect with the difficult kids, who started a program that actually gave kids an incentive to try in school?
One student and I had the following conversation:
RenMan: “Ms. Kim? Remember how you talked about Cesar Chavez and nonviolent protest? What if we did something like that?”
Me: “I don’t see what’s wrong with that. What are you asking for?”
RenMan: “To get Mr. __ back.”
Me: “You might get in trouble. I might have to give you a detention for that.”
RenMan: “I’ve gotten detentions before. Besides, they can’t suspend the whole school.”
My heart swelled, and I was so proud of him. And then my heart broke a little that they would want to protest the unjust firing of a teacher but don’t protest our other over-the-top actions (principal made a kid wear a fax machine cord as a belt when he didn’t wear a belt to school, we’ve taken away shoes, we took 4 hours of instructional time last week signing sheets so that we could fake our ASES hours (half the kids signing aren’t even PART of the ASES program), we give detentions for the tiniest things, we have 20-minute lunches)
So kids have been talking, and I’ve been trying to stay neutral because although I would be so proud of them if they took the right steps in nonviolent protest, I don’t want to use overt influence in anything. On Monday, kids were calling out, “We want Mr. __ back,” “Where is Mr. __?” I saw my students’ faces, and I just shook my head slightly and said, “We’ll talk” to some of them so that they wouldn’t do anything rash.
That day, she bought the boys’ soccer team pizza for their victory. I call that bribery. But great. Boys’ soccer team is now won over. At the end of the day, most students just moved on. They’re used to teachers coming and going.
Then today, when my principal did the morning greeting, some of my students still didn’t say, “Good Morning,” back and instead just averted their eyes. She took my girls aside and spoke with them.
I walked into the office to listen, because I felt they should have someone there.
The gist of the conversation went like this.
Girls: “Why can’t you tell us? He was so good to us. We could connect with him. All the students are sad. He was such a good teacher. He would never hurt us.”
As I listened, I cringed because what they say has merit but they sound so little and so young. The principal was all cream as she assured them, “I hear where you’re coming from. You’re still young. You need to deal with disappointment. I dealt with disappointment. I need to do what’s best for the students and the kids. I can’t tell you. Even if you go to someone higher, they won’t tell you.”
In effect, the message was you have no voice. You are young.
And at this point, I could have added something, but all I said was, “It’s probably illegal too, guys.”
And the principal latched onto that right away. And it sucked. Because all I wanted was for the girls to calm the mutinous looks off their faces. To smile. To not SHOW how they’re feeling. To not be SO transparent. To not be SO trusting. Because it DOES take two to tango. And right now, Principal, you ain’t tangoing. You are taking advantage of the fact that they’re young and you get to lord that over them.
Then she says, “You can always talk to me, girls. You know I’m here. But also, no rolling your eyes – that’s attitude, and you need to watch that attitude. That could be a suspension.” She covered this with this motherly concern. In my head, I’m boiling. How dare she. That’s a threat.. to my top-top – can teach themselves algebra – top girls.. who of course, would fear anything disciplinary. What a way to quash people.
At the end of the day, it’s true. It’s his word against the school’s. And the school legally is not allowed to give the reason. (But then, WHY in the news, do we always hear about the reasons for teachers being fired?). So maybe that’s not fair that I’m just taking his word. But then, you know what? It’s always about trust, and at the end of the day, I just don’t trust her.
I later did go over to her office to smooth things over.
“Is everything okay?”
“I just think, they’re not really rolling their eyes, they’re just upset and very transparent about it. Don’t worry.”
“Yeah. It will blow over. Yesterday I was really nervous, but not today.”
.. and then it hit me that she was nervous too. This whole act is an act.
I taught Animal Farm today, and as we looked at Squealer’s arguments and why the animals would agree with Napoleon, I used examples that sounded similar to my principal’s words. Just like Napoleon, our school uses future fear, current fear, ignorance, and bribes to our own advantage. At the end, who suffers the most? The kids. What’s worse is they don’t even know it.