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Insults and Injuries

September 1, 2012
Teacher of the Year

I sleep with this under my pillow.

I don’t know where to start.

Should I begin with the fact that I worked 60+ hours every week last year in a public school in New Orleans? Do I catalog the times I took students home, worked with them after school, led them through homework on the phone, gave away my lunch, planned, replanned, taught, retaught, assessed, reassessed? Is it important to mention that my students were all 2 years or more behind, some coming from 5th grade into my 8th grade classes? Many reading on 1st, 2nd, 3rd grade reading levels? How about a 50-60% attendance rate? Or the 30-40% attendance during the last trimester of school? Perhaps I should tell stories about how my kids came in not writing complete sentences and left my classroom having written poetry, essays, stories, conversations, having enthusiasm and the technical skills to pull it off, for school, for writing, for all the new things they learned. That’s what my principal talked about when he gave me the Teacher of the Year Award this year.

I’m looking for the hole in the story. Something’s missing.

Oh, yes, it’s my value added data. Somehow, and it’s not quite clear how, the LEAP scores from my students flooded into my evaluation and sunk my certification score below passing. Like way below. And then, since I moved to Washington, and since I didn’t retain a teaching position rather than leave one in the middle of the year, I got dropped. Just like that. We’re sorry, Ms. Summers, but you don’t pass. You aren’t certified. You can’t get certified. Thanks for the $3,500 tuition, the 80+ hour portfolio, the great observations, thanks for teaching, thanks for being good enough to get recognized at your school, thanks for getting kids who squeaked through 5th grade to pass the 8th grade LEAP test, but no thanks. Thanks for being a first year teacher in a first year school with a first year principal. Sorry. You fail.

Adding insult to injury, I want to teach. So badly.

I don’t think there was any way I could pass. I don’t know any human that could add value enough to a child who came to school 1 or 2 times per week (stoned) to pass a standardized test, no matter how many times I called home, asked for meetings with mom, begged and pleaded for him to come to school. It’s just not humanly possible. Maybe I blame. Maybe the system is messed up? Maybe I just didn’t play the game well enough. In fact, I know I didn’t.

teachNOLA is right. It’s the teachers. It’s all the teachers. It’s only the teachers. We go at it, often alone, and still fail. But all the tricks and treasures that we’re taught still aren’t enough. We still fight our way out of the fog to recovery when the school year is over. And can’t recover. And sit bamboozled by some equation that says I’m unfit to teach.

If anyone’s listening: I’m a good teacher. A damn good teacher. And what crazy equation made by people who have not taught, computed by the short observations and bullshit rubrics and student surveys (written in language they can’t comprehend!) and value added (added to what?) data determines whether or not I’m certified? So. So. So frustrating to ask myself what else I could have done, and to still get the same answer.


Moving on.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Alexia permalink
    September 1, 2012 8:27 pm

    Appeal, appeal, appeal. I am more than sure that you can get your ex-administrators to back you up and provide real proof of the successes you made with your students.
    It’s crap!

    • September 11, 2012 6:57 pm

      My administrators will back me up for sure. There isn’t an appeal process for people like me, but I’m making sure they have all the info they’d need to make the right decision. I can’t control what they do with it, unfortunately. Highly frustrating!

  2. September 2, 2012 1:58 pm

    I hear you, but don’t give up. Today’s students need teachers like you. There are ways around and through this situation. It will come to you!!! 😉

  3. Didier Morvan permalink
    September 3, 2012 8:21 pm

    You’ve got spirit and heart don’t let them take that from you fight them.

  4. September 3, 2012 9:02 pm

    you’re right! you ARE a damn good teacher and you ARE teacher of the year for a reason! don’t quit. our society loses BIG TIME without you in the classroom. i bet all your blog followers and facebook readers would help you with your case too! fight for this, sunny! we got your back!

  5. September 11, 2012 2:14 pm

    Ok I don’t have kids and don’t remember a lot from when I was in school…but does this mean you can’t teach ANYWHERE? This seems insane, and if that’s the case, it sounds like the people who created this system are also the ones helping to keep it broken. The things that the kids you taught are up against are staggering. The fact you got through to any of them is amazing, and the fact that the school didn’t fight to keep you there is appalling.

    • September 11, 2012 6:55 pm

      Many schools don’t require certification– especially charter or private schools. It’s preferred. Not all states reciprocate.
      And my school would have loved for me to stay. For sure. I moved to join my boyfriend in Washington, and hopefully will be back in the South sooner than later.
      Thanks for reading!

  6. September 22, 2012 1:11 pm

    This gets me going. Reminds me of all the things I find equally frustrating. Our education system is so broken. Makes my heart hurt. You rock for everything you did last year. That’s coming from a teacher who fights a similar battle with less confidence in my own abilities. You are amazing.

  7. Patricia permalink
    January 6, 2013 12:55 pm

    Wow, I just found your blog, and am reading it avidly. I’m a potential teachNOLA candidate, traveling to New Orleans to interview in a couple of weeks (From Seattle, ironically!). Now I’m incredibly nervous! First of all, I hope that I’ve got as much spirit, verve, and dedication as you–sure sounds like it’s needed! I’m specifically going for teaching high-needs, at-risk students, and was hoping–not for a pass–for some understanding of the steep learning curve of the first year. Looks like that’s not the case. I’ll read the rest of this narrative, but if you have any advice for what kinds of questions I should ask during the interview, I’d be so grateful! I’m glad you love Seattle–you’re making me miss it already, and I won’t be leaving for months, if I join the teachNOLA program


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