The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

What it Means to Be a Teacher Today

on July 14, 2016

On July 3rd  Diane Ravitch posted a piece titled “Why One Beloved First Grade Teacher is Leaving”, and I was struck by the descriptions of teachers’ working lives today that appeared in the article and readers’ comments.  I decided to post a couple of  those comments, plus two others that appeared later in response to another article.  Although these comments do not necessarily represent what is going on in most school districts, it is frightening to know that they are happening anywhere in the U.S.


I am standing strong now. However, it is taking a toll on my health and well being. Already on 3 different types of medication and an emergency surgery for polyps (because of stress) on my job. Teaching math to high schoolers I love. The administrator evaluating me (same one for the last 4 years) is impossible and only follows the letter of the rubric despite my pleas to have a different one.

My evaluations are not good and I have been teaching for 17 years and have good results. I feel they are working to drive me out because I cost more than a new younger teacher. I am not valued and my experience is not being listened to. I love the profession and I love teaching the students, but I no longer love the job and tell any students who want to be a teacher to pick a different profession. I hope this changes soon before my health wears out or I am forced out.

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It is IMPOSSIBLE to blame career veteran teachers or any teachers, for that matter, who feel by necessity that they must leave the profession for their health and sanity sake. It is certainly OPTIMISTIC (and an optimism that I hope prevails) that keep teachers in the fight. But, it comes at such a high cost as district after district naton-wide becomes more and more “reformy”.

Teachers feel like they are at war these days. A teacher is a “bad teacher” until data “proves” otherwise and the data is ridiculous and a colossal waste of time! And THE LONGER one endures the “reform” nonsense, the harder it is to prevail. How tragic that wanting to instill a love of life-long learning in our nation’s youth should feel like war.

I have a friend who just retired this year after MANY years of teaching early childhood; she couldn’t stay “another minute”. Had she had respect for her school leadership and what she was asked to do in her classroom, she would have stayed in her profession because she had had many years of joy and is in good health thus far. The leadership became more and more destructive instead.

Sadly, teaching under such distress and for so many years does lead to health problems for many. Nobody is any good in this fight from the grave. My friend will FIGHT… she will ADVOCATE… go to PROTESTS … and will not take her retirement lightly. THIS I KNOW. So perhaps it is time to believe in the premise that every action has an equal reaction; may teacher retirees who leave due to long-term duress will hopefully FIGHT BACK for those still in the system. I am sure David Weinstein will probably fight too. So tragic to hear that Brookline, MA (such a formerly progressive education system) is going down the “reformer path”…

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I used to be able to close my door and teach the way I knew was right. Now I have groups coming in my room unannounced checking my objectives that must be posted on the wall, asking my students what the objective is, asking them to explain the objective, making sure I am teaching that objective, and looking for evidence that my students are learning the objective. My room is a revolving door of people from the state, superintendent’s office, my principal and assistant principal, and cohorts of my peers from my building.

This is not how I want my child to spend 30 years of her adult life . You bet I have told her how I feel about the current teaching profession and that I do not want her to become a teacher. I would not wish this misery on anyone.

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I have been following you for the last 10 years and am in awe of your continued efforts to turn public education in the right direction.I read your article this morning about a teacher who had had enough.It could have been my story.

I am a retired NYC Department of Education pre-k teacher in an under-represented community. I taught pre-k for 16 consecutive years in the same school. I was fortunate that I was able to introduce many innovative programs to support my students not just in academics but the more important social/emotional piece that schools often neglect.

I brought to my classroom American Sign Language, Yoga, Mindfulness, Cooking and Baking, Caterpillars into Butterflies and as much art and music as I could fit in a day. My students thrived. Sadly, each year it became more and more difficult to protect my students from the “rigor” and academic push for 3 and 4 year olds.

This past year, I was evaluated by not just my supervisors but from NYC Instructional Coordinators, a Social Worker who came once a month and no longer worked with students and their families, but was there to teach me classroom management, and an Educational Coach who came to help me learn how to better assess my students.

In addition, NYC has contracted ECERS: Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale.The Instructional Coordinators returned to review the ECERS report on the premise of helping me attain a better rating the next year. They removed my television which I used to play videos for yoga and ASL for my students so they could see children their own age doing yoga and ASL. They said ECERS did not allow more than 20 minutes a week for technology. I tried to explain that the television was not technology but the television was removed.

They removed my oven because they believed it to be dangerous. They removed my students yoga cushions because they said they were not sanitary despite the fact that they had washable covers.

The final blow came when in the ECERS report it stated that I had an inappropriate book; The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle. The ECERS evaluator said it promoted violence and bullying because the grouchy ladybug wanted to fight. Either she had never read the book or had read it and did not understand its value.

I no longer had any autonomy in my classroom and I could not in good conscience do what the IC’s and other outside people wanted me to do with my children. It was a very difficult decision. I had legacy families where I had taught 7 or 8 members of extended families. Many families started teaching their children how to pronounce my name as soon as they were able to sit up.

My story is just one small grain of sand but I am confident that it is being replicated all over the country.I left not because I was in an under represented community and not because many children had challenging issues but rather because the lack of support and understanding about what it means to be a teacher was draining the life out of me. I am hopeful to continue to have a voice for children, particularly the ones that few want to teach.

If you post my story, please do not use my name.

 

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