Monday, May 2, 2011

Cut Off One Head, See What You Get?

Since my last, long post many things have happened, both within my boggled mind and at my school. First and best is that for several days after I wrote, I felt a renewed sense of enthusiasm for my work. It was so surprising to find, just the next morning, that I was experiencing a true sense of joy and purpose in my interactions with the students. Since that time, my school had its annual Arts Week celebration, and I spent all last week teaching students about American painters from the late 1800s to the 1950s, art from the Age of Exploration, painters of the Harlem Renaissance, and Greek mythology as portrayed in ancient vase paintings. I've lesson planned, made summer reading lists, delivered instruction, and basically done all the things I love to do on a daily basis. Sounds pretty nice, right? It has been. I've been thinking that sticking around is pretty tempting, considering there is clearly still good teaching to be done. I've been thinking that it's not so bad, that perhaps all I needed was to vent. I've been thinking that I could put this difficult time to good use, chronicling it for public consumption to increase awareness about the difficulties our education system faces. I've been feeling pretty positive. Until....

1. I saw the budget for the next school year.
2. The district started holding hearings for teachers who had received RIF notices.

So, first, the budget. What to say? It's would be very long winded to give a full explanation, but I think I can sum it up for you pretty well with one line-item, a position called Ed Aide II. This position is currently held by five women at our school. 2 work as library clerks, 2 work in the copy room, and 1 works (I think) in an office. These women work 3 hours a day and make, I'm guessing here, about $10.00. LAUSD spends less than $10,000 a year to fund each one each year. This year, however, LAUSD cannot afford that whopping $50,000 and is taking us down to a limit of ONE Ed Aide II on campus. That one is determined by seniority, which means my wonderful, amazing library clerk who has worked here for a decade and whose children went to school here (one of whom is my other clerk) is going to be out of a job, or maybe will be able to move to another school nearby, but maybe not. So no library clerks, and a copy room that's open three hours per day is prioritized because we don't trust teachers not to break the machine. And four women out of a job.
The three hour meeting that I attended to learn about the budget presented us with countless scenarios like this one that we are helpless to prevent.

2. Late last week, other librarians began to have their hearings to defend their rights to return to the classroom. You see, the district made a new rule this year. If you've been out of the "classroom" for 5 years, you are no longer qualified to be in the classroom, so you're fired. I have been out of the "classroom" for exactly 5 years. The district says that means I cannot teach English, history, or anything else I once taught. Of course, in my current job description and according to my contract with the district, I am still considered a teacher, but I guess just not a teacher of the right stuff. I understand why they made this rule. It's because in the last two years, they put people into classrooms who had been in cubicles for more than a decade. I can see how those people might have needed a few refresher courses before returning to the classroom. I mean, if you left for a cubicle in the mid-90s, you might not be so up-to-date on current literature, pedagogical research, technology tools, etc. I get that. But I'm not IN a cubicle. I'm teaching children every day, and working with teachers to plan instruction, and....oh, well, I am preaching to the choir here. Anyone reading this knows I'm a teacher. For crying out loud!
So, librarians are taking documentation in quintuplicate that shows that they teach on a daily basis and then they are crossing their fingers that the union-appointed lawyer can convince the judge that they teach enough to gain the right to return to the classroom. And this is being done one person at a time.
I don't get to have a hearing. I was furloughed the week the hearing notice came to my house, which was the same week I had to return a piece of paper saying I wanted to have said hearing. I made the mistake of leaving town that week (foolish me for wanting a little getaway while I'm furloughed!), and the district won't accept late paperwork for any reason. So, even if I had my three-hole-punched packet in quintuplicate that would prove I do my job every day (and that my job is to TEACH), it wouldn't matter. No one wants to hear about it.

After the last time I wrote, things got so good for a moment that I had pretty much decided to stay. At least I would stay at some school, if not this school, and keep working for the people who matter - the students. Now though, I may not have that choice. I am waiting for a loop hole, something that will allow me the right to return to the classroom even though I have no right to a hearing. It seems unlikely, but then again, things change rapidly in this district so that one just never knows....

PS - This is TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK. Please, appreciate your teachers if you get the chance.

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