Monday, October 27, 2008

Another fun-filled inservice day is in the books

Today was that time again - where the teachers of my district filed into the gymnasium of one of our high schools and were told what a piss-poor job we are doing with our minority students.

This time, our superintendent had two community "activists" appear to give us pointers in how to deal with "my people" as they both called it. One man represented the Pacific Islander community, and the other represented the Hispanic/Chicano/Latino/Mexican-American/Aztlan community. Yes, he used all those terms.

The Pacific Islander guy was nice enough. He explained to us the difference between Micronesian, Melanesian, and Polynesian, and the cultural peculiarities of each group. When referencing our Fijian students, he did add that many of them and their families are "undocumented," and so they may not want to field many questions from teachers about what they do for a living and how long they have been here. Ah, yes... undocumented.

Then there was the Hispanic/Chicano/Latino/Mexican-American/Aztlan guy. He was wearing a pair of jeans and a sport coat, and under his sport coat was a t-shirt with the word "Aztlan" and a big eagle emblazoned across the front. He also had an Obama button pinned to his lapel... naturally. We teachers sat in the bleachers on sore and tired posteriors as Mr. Gutierrez droned on about how we should understand why our Hispanic/Chicano/Latino/Mexican-American/Aztlan students should be a little misbehaved, because after all, we took their land. He further explained this concept by uttering the time-honored line: "We didn't cross the border; the border crossed us." He then explained to us that it is our job as teachers to learn to speak Spanish in order to be able to better deal with the parents of our Hispanic/Chicano/Latino/Mexican-American/Aztlan students. To quote Mr. Gutierrez: "That's your job." Isn't it the job of the parents to learn to speak English so they can communicate with their child's teachers? If they are "undocumented," isn't it their job to go back to where they came from and deal with the schools from their native country? Ooops, can't say that. I'm a xenophobe if I say that. Mr. Gutierrez did lose many of his supporters when he began talking about how we teachers need to stay after school late into the afternoon to provide extra help to Hispanic/Chicano/Latino/Mexican-American/Aztlan students who need it. What got heads shaking and chuckles murmuring was when he said that the teacher parking lots need to stop being empty by 3:15. I don't know what school he is talking about, but my parking lot is still pretty full at 4pm and beyond. I usually leave around 3:30 to 3:45 to go pick up my kids, and I am usually one of the first teachers to leave. Excuse my horrible Espanol, but Mr. Gutierrez can go chinga himself.

After Mr. Gutierrez was finished he sat down and it was time for a "State of the District" speech by our spineless, uninspiring superintendent. His presentation was a data-filled Power Point presentation. My favorite part is when he showed a visual representation of the racial/ethnic percentage breakdown of our student population (approximately 75% minority), and then juxtaposed that with a visual representation of the racial/ethnic percentage breakdown of our teacher population (about 75% white). There were knowing gasps of horror and indignation both from the superintendent and many of the teachers in the audience. My first thought was that it's not like these white teachers just tripped into a classroom and began teaching; the district had to hire them first! If we have "too many" white teachers, isn't the district to blame for this horrible travesty? Meanwhile, while the superintendent was speaking, the Hispanic/Chicano/Latino/Mexican-American/Aztlan activist was giving an extra Obama button he had on him to the Pacific Islander activist sitting next to him. The PI guy then pinned his Obama button to his shirt pocket. When I went to the parking lot where all these teachers' cars were, I found myself in a sea of Obama '08 bumper stickers. Teachers tend to be such a leftist lot.

After the verbal whipping in the gym, the teachers of my school then went to our library on campus to find out how to get out of the NCLB-mandated Program Improvement in which we now find ourselves. It seems our African-American students and Socioeconomically Disadvantaged students have not performed up to par on our state testing the last two years, so now we get flailed until we shape up. Never mind that we teachers have little to no control over the performance of these students. We can't follow them home and make sure they do their homework; we can't make them come to tutoring that we offer; we can't make them try their best on a state test for which they are not held accountable for the results; we can't threaten to hold the students back to repeat the same grade next year if they fail to perform.

The real tragedy is that all this anxiety is placed upon us because a couple of years ago, our principal basically unilaterally decided that our school would accept Title I money. She might as well have gotten a loan from the mafia for 5 above the vig. As the state education office presenter told us today, "When you take the feds' money, you have to play their game, and I'm here to teach you the rules." Yes, he actually said that. I don't disagree with the aims of No Child Left Behind, but I am very concerned with the incompetence in which it has been written and implemented.

You know how much Title I money our school gets every year? We are going into Program Improvement and can possibly all lose our jobs in couple years for a measly $60,000 in federal funding. That is the salary (not even with benefits) of one teacher on our campus.

Let the bloodletting begin!

Good Day to You, Sir


Anonymous said...

While I don't disagree with the main thrust of your post, I do think that we, as teachers, need to figure a way to help our African-American students succeed. There is much we control in our classrooms.

I went to a very different inservice for our District, with Dr. Noma Lemoine. Her presentation on how to close the gap was the most compelling I've ever heard. It helped that not once did she point the finger of blame.

Would love to see Mr. G teach. He probably teaches the same lesson every day - How to be a Victim.

Sounds like your district is going through the growing pains of change. Our district did the same. Hopefully, like ours, the discussion will grow less dogmatic, and more amenable.

10 yr. teacher at a "low performing" school.

Don, American said...

There was so much wrong going on there, that I have to take some time to reread and collect my thoughts. I'll be back.

Anonymous said...

The way these professional teachers were treated was demeaning - way to motivate the "underachieving" staff.


Polski3 said...

Anonymous (George?) said, "There is much we control in our classrooms." Yes, but at times, it can reach a point when a student must be removed. If your administration will not back you on such an action, regardless of EdCode specifically stating that the classroom teacher has the right to suspend a student from their classroom, then the teacher does not have control.

I feel for you. "We", in our year six forever underperforming school, often have heard the term "YOU TEACHERS" from administration. Blame it all on the teachers.

I feel your suffering regarding the racial assult you were forced to endure. IMO, THAT is not right, to subject teachers to such an insult.

Darren said...

As I tell parents at Back To School Night, MY kid is my #1 priority, their kid is my #2 priority.

So that I don't screw up that #1 priority, I won't care more than the students or the parents do. If neither of them cares, I've got other kids to focus on. It may sound harsh to the pollyannas, but I'm a teacher, not a saint. And I know it's anathema to say amongst us teachers, but this is my JOB, not my CALLING. I'm not saint, or a martyr. I'd love to be as good as Escalante was, but I'm not. And I'm not ashamed of any of this, either. I'm still a competent teacher.

Hube said...

Brutal. I've been through similar inservices. Now, if I know the topic of an inservice in advance and it's anything like the post here, I use a sick day.

Hube said...

I also like that "the border crossed us" line. Um, what precisely did the Spanish do to the Aztecs and other natives??


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