My readers may have figured out that I am a teacher by day (and a blogger by night!) and wondered why I haven't spoken up more about what's really going on in education. Truth is, I have - under a pseudonym - because like most teachers, I fear for my job and the havoc it would create in my family were I to lose it.
However, as I am getting older I am getting bolder. I am close enough to retirement that I am starting to just not worry about it anymore..... And I have seen enough truly horrible situations with colleagues (both good and bad) to realize that the worse they can do is send me to teach at a middle school. (That's what they do in my district when teachers have been "bad", and have "lawyer-ed up", have no connections or administration doesn't like you. If you have connections or they like you, you get promoted!) For the few years I have left till I am gone forever, I think I can tolerate that fate. And I am not really "bad" in the traditional sense: I come to work each day on time. I do not humiliate or ridicule students. I am not a sexual predator. My only sin is being outspoken, and my test scores are damn good. I turn my paperwork in on time. I follow the rules for employees (dress code, grading, etc.) I pass (or at least, don't fail) the requisite number of students. Did you know these are the criteria for being a "good" teacher these days?
Most importantly, I have been around long enough to know where some of the bodies are buried. As long as no one hassles me, I will keep my mouth shut about who did what. If any of my 19 bosses decides I am a problem for telling the truth about education these days, I am not afraid to spill all - names, dates, places - and I have saved the documentation, over the years, to prove it. Emails, paperwork. Yes I have.
I know all about:
* A school that hired the wife of a friend of the principal, we'll call her Teacher Z, despite Teacher Z having no formal education, experience, or qualifications as a teacher; Z was a former airline stewardess. She kept her job for over 7 years in spite of the fact that she was a drug addict (OxyContin pain pills) who rarely even showed up for work. Even Z used to tell stories about "waking up to find my principal inside my apartment, because the door was left open- principal had come to wake me up and drag me into work for the day." Apparently this happened more than once. Year after year passed and Teacher Z could not pass the certifying test for her profession. Teacher Z's students had dismal test scores, she never turned in lesson plans, she had no furniture in her classroom except beanbag chairs and pillows, and she never put any grades for her students into the online (and view-able by all) computerized grade book. Her supervisor had to invent grades for Z's students out of whole cloth. When Z did show up for work, she let her students roam freely and graffiti the walls so badly the first year she taught that the next year she painted all the walls of her classroom black. Yes, black.
* A school that hired a friend of the principal's, we'll call this person "Teacher Y", as a coach and special education teacher. Teacher Y had no qualifying education, prior experience, or teacher credentials, and administration decided to put the name of a different teacher, Teacher X, (another one on the same campus, one with legit credentials), on every document that contained Teacher Y's name. Teacher X, was put into the computer as the "teacher of record" for all Teacher Y's classes taught, students legally responsible for, paperwork, etc. Every document associated with Teacher Y had Teacher X's name on it, but Teacher Y filled it out, and signed Teacher X's name to it. Anyone who looked carefully enough - an auditor, a payroll clerk, a state accrediting agency - would notice that employee X seemingly taught 2 full jobs - double the classes, double the students, double the subjects, as well as coached, all because Teacher Y had no credentials for the job whatsoever. But no one ever did. Situation went on for years, and may, in fact, still be going on. Teacher X was never notified of any of this but found out accidentally due to an email she was accidentally cc'd on.
* A school hired a friend of the principal's, we'll call this person Teacher Q, who had no education, credentials, or experience to be a teacher. Teacher Q routinely ridiculed and failed too many of his students. He made them sit in a box in his classroom when he decided that they had done something he didn't like. This teacher was promoted to administrator!
*A school that hires many coaches without any certification, education, or experience teaching whatsoever, and assigns them teaching study hall and similar courses. One guy just mows the grass, for which he is paid $70K a year.
*A school that hired a friend of the principal's relative as a teacher's aide (all the same work for half the money.) This teacher's aide decided to start a club, which had a show and a fund-raiser, and sold thousands of dollars of raffle tickets for a car donated by a local dealership. Somehow, all the money mysteriously disappeared....all while the Teacher's Aide found Jesus and was telling her co-workers they were going to hell bc they hadn't done the same.
This is but the tip of the iceberg, my friends. However, if you are concerned about the education your children are getting, I urge you to look up your students’ teachers’ qualifications, education, and certifications online. You can check out the teacher certification of anyone in Texas on the TEA website. I am sure it is similar in any state- there is a state licensing board. While certification isn’t the guarantee of a great teacher, at least it is a starting point. It means the teacher passed a basic test, took some college courses. With “No Child Left Behind” laws coming to an end, the rule that teachers must be “highly qualified” (at least certified and have college coursework in the area they are teaching) is coming to an end. Which means the shenanigans will end, and schools will just openly hire whoever they wish and not even try to make them appear to be qualified.