Friday, December 20, 2013

We Are Losing Some of Our Great Teachers

Dear Louisiana Educator Readers:

I have made a somewhat painful decision to publish excerpts of two letters from a teacher who recently retired early because of the so called education reforms in our state. She is not nearly the first to write to BESE and the State Superintendent about her legitimate concerns.  I believe that her sincere concerns and crushing disappointments with misguided reforms by Governor Jindal and Superintendent White are absolutely vital to the conversation about the future of education in Louisiana. In my opinion it is very fitting that these remarks be published in this blog before we begin a new year. We need to reflect on the mistakes of the recent past if we are to make good decisions about education in the new year.
Michael Deshotels

Terri Guillory, by every measure including the new COMPASS system (She scored "highly effective") is another true master teacher that has decided to retire early because of some of the destructive policies of our governor, our legislature, our DOE and BESE. She quite correctly felt a need to write a letter to her education bosses who pushed her into early retirement to clearly describe for them the polices and attitudes that have driven her to give up her chosen profession. I hope they have all carefully read these very thoughtful letters. The following are excerpts from her letters to BESE and Superintendent White,

To BESE members:
“You and the legislature just blindly signed on to whatever Jindal touted. You asked no questions. You believed many lies. You were willing to throw us under the bus. You watched as we begged to be heard. You ignored us. You smugly observed scores of teachers leaving the profession earlier than planned due to stress. You cared so little for the true mission of education that yours were the hands eagerly dismantling it.

“If only you had respected us enough to hear our concerns, to take into account that we are the boots on the ground, who know what teaching really consists of. If only you could have admitted that the problem is not with educators, but with society itself --- and that the programs you have put in place have no merit or worth.”

I believe these are powerful words coming from the heart of a real educator. I believe Ms Guillory is totally correct in her indictment of BESE. They should be ashamed!

Now here is what Ms Guillory had to say to John White:
On Common Core: “I can see future promise and benefits of using this curriculum. These new standards seem fuller” (Notice that Ms Guillory is not one bit taken in by the claim that these are not curricula but simply standards. There is no question in her mind that the standards and especially the PARCC absolutely dictate the curriculum. In this system, teachers are forced to teach to the test!)
Guillory continues:
“However teachers are scrambling on nights and weekends to locate sources and materials to use. This is building a curriculum from scratch----. Imagine if a surgeon had to be responsible for gathering and organizing the surgical instruments for her surgeries and do so at her expense and on her own time. Teachers do have lives other than their school lives---- In my thirty years I have NEVER put in so much time gathering and preparing as I have done this year. I have had very little guidance and questions have been answered in a conflicting manner. It is not acceptable that teachers have to spend so much time and money cobbling together lessons.

On COMPASS: “This plan pushed through against the good advice of many knowledgeable people is ludicrously full of erroneous assumptions and unattainable goals. There is no way that it is a just and fair practice to put in something that is still evolving into motion and expect immediate proficiency to the point of using it as a ranking and punitive measure.---- Additionally the rubric itself is worded so that it is near impossible to get a 4 rating, to get the huge “carrot on a stick stipend”. The very creator of the rubric has admitted that earning “highly effective” several times in a row is highly unlikely. To earn a 4, students basically have to be in charge of the classroom. ----- Can our future be more tenuous? So what exactly are we trying to achieve? We have been “rode hard and put up wet”. Victimized, faulted, humiliated, insulted, discounted as being unimportant parts of the whole process. I wonder if anyone on your staff or the BESE board realizes what is being asked of us. I wonder if anyone truly knows the full depth and breadth of being a classroom teacher today.”

On the Unspoken Issues: “Everything has been put into action to be accomplished by the teachers and the schools. The entire burden is on us.--- In all the newspapers and press releases and theories proposed, the idea touted is that if the teachers change, improve, comply, then students will progress better than ever before. First, this idea is insulting to all of us because it negates what we have accomplished in all the years we have taught. Second it is a faulty “if/then” because there is MUCH, MUCH more to the equation than just teachers teaching. The unspoken issues that no one wants to utter are these: 1. Despite our best efforts, in reality some students are simply more capable than others, as is true and has been true for time and eternity in every place on this earth. 2. Many, many students have unconcerned parents who have, by the very nature of their faulty parenting handicapped their children long before they enter school. If I remember my educational psychology, the first three years of a child's life are pivotal ----- Many children are not being spoken to, read to, introduced to concepts and ideas in those years. Their learning only begins when they enter school, and at that point, a large deficit already exists. Even than, many parents don't concern themselves about homework, tests, projects or valuing school. I am weary of hearing “Every child deserves a great teacher”. How about “Every child deserves a great parent?” Yet we are expected to reach and teach children, to get them to score well on tests, to get them to achieve, despite every roadblock imaginable. These issues are unspoken because you all can't make policies for those matters, but you have many policies in place to control, demean, and blame us.”

Ms Guillory wraps up with the following:
“Teachers are extremely capable, talented, intelligent, organized, energetic, and devoted. But NO ONE has the magic to do all that is being asked of us. It is an impossible task. We are sitting ducks, being set up to fail. We know this and yet sill we fearfully and wearily forge ahead. That's what we do. But your policies and attitudes toward teachers are killing us and killing the future of education. The best teachers are opting to get out. It isn't that they are lazy or ineffective. It is that they realize the impossibility of the situation. They (we) realize how little faith you have in us and our desire to be individual, creative, unique teachers who don't need to be scored according to an unrealistic recipe that takes away our ability to teach as we deem fit for particular days and lessons. I still have a lot of enthusiasm within and I love to teach, but I can't fight this fight. I am defeated. This is what this year has done.

If you were truly concerned about improving Louisiana education, you would have not bombarded schools with so many enormous changes at once. I have not even mentioned all the day to day regular elements of the job of being a teacher. Please come and teach for a week. Gather, plan, show up, teach, assist, differentiate, pull duty, complete paperwork, trouble shoot, discipline, counsel, evaluate, be evaluated, tutor, monitor, contact parents, grade papers. Then do it all again the next day. Walk in the shoes of those you judge so harshly.”

Yours truly,
Terri Guillory

My holiday wish: That in the new year, our teachers, school administrators, and other education professionals will be recognized and treated as the wonderful, creative and dedicated professionals they have always been.

Michael Deshotels


Anonymous said...

It would be too lengthy to name all of the problems that are going on in education right now...but the new one that has been thrown at me right after Thanksgiving in an effort to improve student grades by the end of the semester, "if students aren't motivated to turn in their work, and the parents aren't motivated to make is YOUR responsibility to figure out how to get those zeroes out of your roll book." Mike, I ask for it at the end of class, I allow them to take it home to complete if they didn't finish it, I can ask them for it at the beginning of the next class, I can post the zero online for not turning it in where parents/students can see it, send an email telling parents the grades are posted and they should check the grades to help us get the work in, I can tell students on the Monday after it was due that I still don't have it, and then offer to let them turn it in by the Friday the week after it was due for a small penalty for it being late. We have so much information to cover...we can't lollygag for 3-4 days to complete one assignment in class. AND I AM THE WEAKEST LINK HERE????? I'm putting in applications EVERYWHERE I can, and the second I find something that pays me a comparable salary to what I get now...I'm done with this s***!

Anonymous said...

From the guy who left the comment right above this...Merry Christmas! :)

Anonymous said...

A very well spoken and enlightening post.
Blaming failing education on the teachers are like blaming a bandage for an infected knife wound. The problems are WAY deeper than what teachers can, or should be asked, to do.

If you know a teacher, ask them their opinion of Common Core. Ask them to express their views publicly. They don't have long anyway, because the Educrats and Socialists in D.C. will soon replace them with 'qualified' teachers from the D.C. chapter of Acorn.

“If you love wealth (your job) greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.”

I would add "And for your Children" to this quote from Samuel Adams.

Communist Core is NOT about is about Control!
Once Communist Core is embedded into the foundations of American Education, the States, School boards, Parents, and Children will not have any Control of what is taught in American Schools. Once they have Control of Education, the Socialists and Educrats in Washington D.C. will morph education into what THEY think YOUR children SHOULD learn...Socialism. Communism.

If Common Core Lives, Freedom Dies.

KimberlyDtchr said...

Thought: Hasn't it been said somewhere that to receive respect one must respect oneself?

I think it's time...

It's later than we think.

Jeremy said...

And this is just going to continue to happen more and more in the coming years. The fact that HALF of my job performance evaluation is based on ONE End of Course test is enough to drive me crazy. As Ms. Guillory said, "Many many students have unconcerned parents..." That short bit, to me, is the #1 problem. It is NOT my job to MOTIVATE students to come to school (as I've been told before). It is NOT my job to ensure that students go home and study (just not physically possible). Education has changed tremendously since I started teaching 15 years ago. I can't imagine where things will be in another 15...heck, even another 5.

Steve said...

The flaw in this reasoning is in the assumption that Boy Wonder and BJ want the reforms to work. It took me awhile to accept it, but the evidence is clear: they WANT public education to fail, and they've taken steps to guarantee it.

Anonymous said...

I, like so many of my peers, do everything to get those zeros filled. we are asked to give 20 chances, give up our 22 min lunch to have students come in to work, call home over and over and over, and if the zeros don't go away WE get talked to and told we didn't do enough. Many teachers have learned to just fill in the zeros, give crossword puzzles worth 50 points and have "peer tutors" help the kid with zeros by doing the work for them. Those of us saying enough is enough are told we aren't team players or we are negative or worse yet, we are not happy and perky!
Parents run our school, complaints about totally stupid crap are given validation by holding parent conferences when a child is told that "no, you can't make up work from two months ago and the parent comes up ready to kill a teacher for daring to "attack his self esteem!" Teachers are tired of being yelled at by parents and disrespected by students. Daily. Multiple times in class.
Four fantastic teachers here retired this month, mid year, just so they could get out of this mess. Three others are on medical leave due to stress related illnesses. What important issues do parents show up at school for? Things like: The time the principal closed the concessions stand at lunch because the mess of trash left by students was horrific. The time we made students with zeros miss a pep rally for football to make up work. The time a teacher sent an email out saying that students will lose 5 points from an assignment for not putting their heading on their work.
Disruptive behavior, fighting, failing to complete assignments and breaking school rules-many parents could care less as long as their child passes-even with straight D's. The day before grades were due we all got emails and calls from tons of parents asking for bonus work so their child can have a D!!!

Anonymous said...

I am a primary teacher of 30 years. Without going into to a lengthy dialogue, I will say I am a very good teacher. All of this change has forced me to decide to retire early. I still have many good years left to give our children but must take my talents elsewhere. I will be applying to parochial schools for the upcoming school year taking a fifty percent pay cut. Some may ask why. Well, I am spending all of my time at home doing school work. Lesson plans take hours to create just to be able to minimally pass COMPASS, making assessments takes many more hours because we no longer have the textbooks and resources available to deliver these lessons. Many of the children show up in kindergarten with no previous learning and by that I mean that some cannot even communicate verbally. We are expected to work miracles with these children who have no foundation in language by teaching them to speak, write, and read the Engish language. All of this is expected while teaching them the social skills to work with others, only to send them home each day and weekend to dysfunctional environments. Evaluators want these children to be in charge of their learning and run our classrooms at 5,6,7,& 8 years old. I could go on forever about what's wrong with these new evaluations and what's lacking instead I will just close in saying that as for the teachers who are in this as a vocation, you will find many of us in the private and parochial schools. I just want to teach and have my students learn. This is sad because many very worthy and needy students will be losing good qualified teachers just like myself. The younger teachers with so much to offer will also be leaving and finding careers where their hard work and dedication is appreciated and compensated. Where will that leave Louisiana's Public School children?

Anonymous said...

I, too, am a highly qualified teacher that left the public school system for the reasons Ms. Guillory stated. I loved teaching. The faculty and staff were phenomenal at my last urban school. I often invited people (usually persons who were SO negative) to come to the school and my classroom to see the progress my students had made. Did anyone come? No.
Soon the system will realize that they can't blame teachers anymore. I'm not the first to leave, and I won't be the last. I am one of the saddest for all teachers.

Jeremy Miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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