Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cattle Calls and Teacher Degradation Push Me Off the Fence

So yesterday after school was our district's annual high drama cattle call.  It is degrading beyond belief.  It has nothing to do with professionalism, talents, being qualified (other than on paper) for the job.  It is all about strategy and using your seniority to get what you want.  Administrators have no voice in who comes to their schools.  Some experienced and savvy teachers know how to use their seniority by picking up and leaving positions throughout the five or six rounds of this process.

Here is how it's done.

Every spring, all teachers get a staffing needs list for the following year.  The list is organized by department and is quite lengthy.  So, a teacher looks over the list and finds something they are interested in taking and goes to the is event.  I will refer to the event from here on as Teacher Degradation (TD).

For the week or so prior to TD, teachers begin strategizing. Rumors of all sorts fly.  Teachers start figuring out how to get the domino topple reaction to allow them to slide into a position they want.  They start  figuring out how to get to their final destination and that may involve taking a position they don't want in the first round, so that a person they heard wants their current position will take it, which then leaves that position empty for the second round.  They hear somewhere that a teacher (whose job the original teacher wants) in another building wants that newly vacant job.  So by round three the teacher gets to jump from the job they took but don't want to the job they originally had their eye on.

Confused?  Me too.  And put into that mix that this takes place in the gym of one of the schools and the postings are listed and updated by department in alphabetical order on a huge screen for all to see, administrators standing round in the background, union officials scrutinizing every move and ensuring the contract is honored, rules and exceptions beyond comprehension to follow, crappy 6th grade fund raiser snacks for sale in the foyer of the host school, teachers sitting in cliquish clusters offering support as well as gathering information from other groups about who is moving where and when, all the rules and regs for playing the game if you are on layoff status or a teacher with a contract for next year but no assignment.  Each round includes every posting from every department in alpha order.  We go from Art through special ed, position by position in EVERY round.

And all of this depends on YOUR SENIORITY to the DAY of when you signed your contract.  Yep, I signed my contract at 4:00 one afternoon, you signed yours the next morning at 8:00 and I have seniority over you.  Let's not consider the talents of each candidate.  That simply does not matter.  I signed my contract the last minute of the work day prior to you signing yours the first minute of the next work day and I win.

And by the way... you cannot enter TD without first getting your very own, specially made just for you for this occasion sheet of paper with your name, your seniority number, a list of your certifications, and current assignment.  And also by the way.... if you have not completed 3 years in the district you can go into TD, but you cannot play and your piece of paper is a different color so you don't try to slip in where not wanted.  When a position you want is called, you go line up and a union rep puts you all in order of seniority and you go into THE ROOM which is out of sight and full of union people with clipboards and a variety of higher up district administrators and people from human services checking and rechecking your certifications and your seniority.  Those waiting in the gym then watch the big screen for a job to be crossed off and the new position left open by you taking that new position to be posted for the next round.  People in line leave crying because they did not get the position they wanted and they have to go back to the postings for the next round.

Anyway, last night was extra special in that a really negative teacher from my building was strongly encouraged by the union and district administration  TO PLAY at TD due to the trouble she was in and causing at my school.  Well, this opened her position, which started the ripple effect and thrust many colleagues district wide to reassess strategy and decisions were made in instant emotional charged moments.

I had not planned to go, but got a text from my best Art Teacher Friend saying that negative teacher jumped to another school.  She was ecstatic!  Everyone was.  But this meant new dramas were to unfold and as the night went on, my posse was wearing out so I offered to bring nutritious snacks in the form of Mt. Dew, Coke, and cookies.  The orders came pouring in and I was off the Kwik Trip for some Big Gulps.

I stayed for about 45 minutes.  I am telling you, once you enter TD it pulls you in with incredible force and you just have to watch in horrid fascination.  I watched my school turn into a very different beast, but left after the second round was only just beginning so the drama was far from over.

I made sure to really attend to all the feelings I had as I drove out of sight.
  • I miss my friends so much.  I still see them and we still have time together, but I miss seeing them day to day and being part of their professional lives.
  • I was glared at by the administrator who was responsible for me quitting my admin grad program. 
  • I had a visceral reaction seeing two of the dumbest, bitchiest special ed administrators joined at the hip whispering and sniggering.  
  • I was sickened and disgusted by the process by which teachers are forced to find agreeable assignments for the next year.
  • I was sickened by how this process turns good people in to waling, rumor spreading, very base and dirty fighters.  We turn on each other in this environment.
  • Given that two of my strongest-support-the-EBD-kiddos classroom teachers left to grades I do not work with, I cannot imagine next year without them supporting my program and kids.
  • It is time to move on.
More about that in tomorrow's post.  
Yes, faithful readers, I am jumping off the fence of indecision! 

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Although I am dangerously opinionated, I am a flexible thinker and welcome your thoughts.