On Strike

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The public supports us.

Being on strike makes me proud. To see and hear the support of the public every morning on the picket line, I am further convinced L.A. teachers made the right choice to leave the classroom. It is not an easy choice for many single income teachers, but it is one of the reasons we are striking. Teachers should not have to live paycheck to paycheck when educating society's children.



But our strike is about more than that, and it seems the public is aware of what we have been concerned about for years. In the middle of one morning's picket session I realized that the education reformers had been so very wrong in what they were telling us. The public knows and understands that we know what's best for children in schools. They place their precious children in our hands to educate, and want us to do our job unencumbered by district edicts and structures that get in the way.

The public supports us.


Being on strike is not what I thought it would be. It is be…

The Feds Take on Teacher Assignments

US to Focus on Equity in Assigning of Teachers

When I was a newer teacher, I used to think teachers should not get to pick their work location. I used to think that if there were superstar teachers, they should be assigned to teach the students who needed them the most, like the ones at the schools where I've taught.

Then I realized superstar teachers are few and far between.

The process to determine who is a great teacher is flawed, none exists yet.

Socioeconomics more greatly determine who is a great teacher than other measures in place today.

You could be a failing teacher at a failing school one year, and a superstar the next in another more affluent school or district.


How do you define a failing school anyway?

So the problem remains: who will best teach the students from poverty at schools such as mine?

First, I would abandon my naive idea of forcibly assigning teachers to work in places they don't choose. It would never work. The resentment and the stress alone would poison the precious relationship between student and teacher that is the foundation of learning. And I don't want to work with teachers who think their talents are being wasted in the "hood".

I would invest in our homegrown teachers by cultivating relationships with former students and following up on leads by local schools of education. While I enjoy the spirit of TFA teachers, I would employ them only sparingly, because for students in my neighborhood, stability is key.

A wide range of experience on staff would also matter.  We would have equal numbers of new, mid-career, and veteran teachers, all of which have something to offer to each other. Ideally, retired teachers would be replaced by new ones, keeping our staff in a sort of educational homeostasis.

Teachers on staff would routinely be sent on quality training, a lot of it off campus, and even out of state. It makes teachers feel like professionals and it helps them refine their craft. I know our new superintendent is against removing teachers from the classroom excessively, but sometimes you have to give something to get something.

I would follow the recommendations make by Tom Torlakson' s Greatness by Design report (full disclosure: I worked on this report) and make sure some of our teachers become teacher leaders, because sometimes you want to do more for your school than what you can accomplish in your classroom.

Finally, I would do what has been done at other great schools, charter and public. Offer health club memberships to teachers, day care, coffee trucks, and massages.

Pampered! Primped! But a teacher whose heart, body, and soul is cared for will have the fortitude and perseverance needed to teach the students sent to us with so many challenges. They will last in hard to staff schools. They will strengthen the social fabric of the school and community. And they will create their own solutions to each school's unique circumstances.


Comments

  1. Nice piece, Martha. I will download your report and read it on the way to NCSS next week. Even the charters are starting to wise up and see that they can't burn out and turn over 1/3rd of their workforce every year. http://hechingerreport.org/content/charter-schools-better-known-churn-burn-now-try-keep-teachers-mom-friendly-policies_17925/ Keep speaking the truth.

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