Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fire the Government? Fire Yourself!

Reports of teacher censorship seem to be on the upswing, as do reports of abuse of power against teachers. A small minority in communities are using scare tactics to justify disrespectful actions against teachers who are trying their best to follow the KNOWN rules and teach our children well.

A teacher began a writing mentor system for students. The students would blog, and the mentors(other teachers) would comment on their blog posting. The teacher trained the students about internet safety, and the students, according to the record of their posts and comment logs were following the safety rules. It seems that a minority of the community was able to complain and convince some in governance that this blogging activity should be stopped.

The school administrator told the teacher that the equivalent of our SRS wanted the protected online posting be discontinued, while they began an investigation. The teacher was very accepting of this situation and asked that standards be developed so similar successful activities like these could continue.

You can find the summary of this story on the teacher's blog posting, Order for Closure: Al Upton and the Mini-Legends. Several other teachers have commented about this situation in their blogs.

Reports are made of teachers being placed in a non-teaching environment, like a holding cell sans physical iron bars, without a hearing or official explanation. I first heard the report on This American Life episode: Human Resources with Ira Glass, so I invetigated this scary scenario.

It seems that the reports are true. These teachers, some after years, in what is called the Rubber Room, teachers are usually fired without fanfare. Occasionally, some teachers are returned to their classrooms. Listen to their amazing stories, and you may wonder where these teachers are. To put you at ease, they are in New York City! Don't believe me, listen to this trailer of Rubber Room, the movie.

There are stories just like these are happening everywhere, in our country and abroad. Forget about fair, most times we can actually focus in on legal. Is the treatment of these teachers legal, and where is their support system?

Members of the community who allow these demoralizing things to happen to teachers should educate themselves. Since schools are under local control, community members are in control. What is your community's legacy to your children?

Community members need to shout, "Fire Yourself!" to school boards and administrators who hire people and then turn around and fire them. The people in the community need to accept their role in government. Go to school board meetings to keep your public servants honest. If you don't, you get the government you deserve.

Communities are hard pressed to find good teachers. Some communities seem bound and determined to undermine the teachers they do hire. What they don't seem to realize is, THEY HIRED THESE PEOPLE, so really they are the people with a problem...not the teachers they hired. If you can't hire a good, quality teacher and then let them do their job, with leadership, not harrassment, get out of the school business yourself.

Communities must remove these ineffectual leaders from their administrative or governing positions as soon as possible, unless the community decides they can be rehabilitated. If so, the rehabilitated person must frequently report to the community on their progress in becoming a lead manager, not a boss manager. They are not the dictator, they are OUR representative to our children and their teachers.

In a timeless balancing act, there is a delicate equilibrium in this human equation between the ruled and the ruler(s). As individuals, humans assert a countervailing weight, to the controlling entity, a ruler(s). The individual's right to control their own body and property must balance the effect of group control over the individual. The sanctity of the individual cannot be abandoned because of ineffective governance.

When ineffective, dysfunctional governing bodies scramble to strengthen control by asserting their need to take questionable actions against individuals, communities as well as individuals lose.

Ultimately, what a community and its governing affiliates achieve will be judged as abusive, benign or helpful. They will be judged by their deeds, evidenced by the respect for individual rights and dignity. Can you say that your community and your representatives treat your employees with dignity?

If you live on a deserted island with no contact with anyone else, only self government applies to you. For the rest of us, there is NO SUCH THING AS SELF-GOVERNANCE, we are part of many groups under many jurisdictions. Because that is true, individuals living and working together, in a democracy, have an obligation to remember that WE are the government. If our representatives are weak and ineffective, WE are to blame.

If you don't know what is happening in your government, I would suggest that you best go find out.


Linda said...

I am glad you picked up the banner with me about getting the word out.
I will link your posting to my blogpost so we can continue to publicize the underside of education.

Britt G. said...

Hi - In Victoria, Australia we are also in the midst of negotiations to achieve pay parity with other states. No teacher takes the right to strike flippantly, but we also had thousands of teachers turn out at a city stadium as a sign of protest. The Victorian governemnt have introduced a new 'flagship' with new reporting requirements and curriculum standards and claim we need to further increase our productivity to deserve a 3.25% increase. I love teaching, but think it is undervalued by many.
P.S. A mutual friend (murcho) recommended me to you as a fellow science teacher.

samccoy said...

Thanks for the comment and timely information about the teachers' situation in Victoria, Australia. I am learning quite a bit about how schools are governed in your country from all the great conversations like yours, and our other mutual colleagues;D

BTW, my mostly science blog is called: In the Know NOW.

I am a bit more outspoken there, especially on certain topics in Science. I only write about science topics and trends that interest me as a teacher/learner. You may find more information that relates.

I hope that the Victorian governmental offices begin to understand that they must pay for added services. IMHO, Anything they ADD to your plate should be an item to be compensated, after the teachers have agreed to do it through negotiations. That increase in pay would be over and above the normal pay raise that usually just keeps up with inflation.

American teachers have really let their unions deteriorate, over the past decades, yet the teachers in Australia seem to have managed to continue to have a fairly united front. Congratulations!