I was hired in 1998 in Forsyth County at a very nice school. Good teachers, great PTA, administrators who dealt with discipline issues efficiently. I taught in an old trailer that was condemned a few years after I was hired. Other teachers were kind and helpful, and I made some lifelong friends in my seven years there.
I moved within the county and landed at another school, not unlike the first. Being the new kid on the block is never easy, but I managed to fit in. I started out at my new school in a POD, which is a glorified trailer. One thing that made a huge difference was that I really felt appreciated by the administration. That didn’t last long. We had a new administrator within a couple of years. He didn’t seem too keen on respecting others equally. Some teachers were treated with a lot more respect than others. That was okay with me because he didn’t last long as our administrator. A new administrator came along and aimed to fix all of our problems.
At this point our problems were too big for one person. Even a dream team of administrators couldn’t fix us. Between having one great principal, one who hardly did anything, and the token hero flying in to save the day, we still had the same assistant principal. This A.P. believed that he could control everything at our school, and probably had a lot of practice during #2’s administration. He had changed, too, and was cross with everyone. Teachers were often snapped at for bringing a discipline issue to light. We were told to handle more and more discipline issues within the classroom by modifying our expectations and filling out more discipline charts. More paperwork is what we all needed. And meeting goals for the ever-popular Positive Behavior Intervention Support system became a school initiative. Give students a treat for meeting expectations. Genius? I believe Pavlov tried it with dogs.
We were never taking away things to discipline students. The students learned to turn in homework for a sticker. If no homework was done, we had to work harder to figure out what currency worked for each individual student. And time spent teaching suffered because we were all too busy figuring out if little Johnny worked harder for a sticker or a piece of candy. If Johnny didn’t work harder, we needed to refer him to a committee which would be devoted to spending after-school time to figure out WHY he wouldn’t work.
Subtract pay raises. Add Common Core. Add two mandatory grade changes. Subtract self-confidence. Add negative feedback from administration. But aren’t we supposed to be “positive?”
With the all-powerful Test becoming the driving force behind evaluations and (eventually) pay, one questions how an average teacher will survive. The answer is: they won’t. I am actually a below-average teacher, or so I was recently told. My current “value-added” number in some database called EVAAS is negative. While I’m positively sure that I’m not the best teacher in the world, I’m also positively sure that I’m not the worst. I’m planning to quit as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Will I be missed after more than fifteen years? Probably not. I will have served a purpose. The people who’ve truly appreciated my 9.5 hour days are gone. So is the desire for me to teach. My students are the reason I’ve stayed so long and the administration will be the reason I leave.