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Just Try to Fire me Now!

May 11, 2010

You can’t. I have tenure. (Not strictly true, I can still get fired, believe me).

I know, I know. It’s a dirty word. Tenure is the cause of all the education system’s ills, right? I accepted it anyway. While I am somewhat ambivalent about the practice of tenure, I sure wasn’t going to pass it by if someone wanted to give it to me. While I find DC School Superintendent’s proposal to double the pay of teachers who forgo tenure intriguing, and would probably take it (although the proposed review process makes very little sense in my particular specialty, or with any student who has an IEP (work on that, Michelle)), I also think it is 100% unsustainable. OK, so with those two problems right there, the proposal is entirely untenable, but whatever, the media still thinks she is the best thing to hit education since Arne Duncan (Obama’s one weakness).

I digress.

Since tenure has such a bad rap, I thought I’d tell you a few things that make it more understandable in the realm of public school teachers.

o Teaching has very few layers. Between me and a pink slip is my principal. If we don’t see eye-to-eye, or she thinks my advocacy for my students will make her life harder, or he has a friend who wants my job, or some squeaky wheel kind of a parent is making a stink, or we just don’t click, I could get fired and the only person to whom I could appeal is the Superintendent. Since it is easier to replace a teacher than a principal, it puts the teacher in a precarious situation.

o Unlike many workplaces, you don’t have a lot of say for who you work with. If you don’t fit in to some staff room or the administration isn’t supporting you, you could easily find yourself on the outs with colleagues.

o There is little chance to transfer or be promoted. A teacher is a teacher. You can’t just leave a hard working environment, even if you foresee trouble for yourself there.

o Being fired from teaching is not like being fired from another job. In almost any other field, you could very plausibly argue, “it just didn’t work out.” In education, if you are fired, you are assumed to have committed some serious moral wrong, likely requiring jail time.

That list makes it sound like schools are a terrible place to work. Not really. Education is a lovely working environment until it isn’t, and then it is really really bad. It can be very political (school politics, not government), and individuals can make a big difference in your quality of life for good or ill. So I understand why teachers are reluctant to part with tenure. But seriously, double my pay, and I’ll give you my certificate and pin back.

More importantly, I was awarded with Lily’s very first essay about me yesterday. I am tempted to write a line-by-line textual analysis of this, but I’ll let you decide for yourself what is true and what is the personal interpretation of a five year old.

You can’t trade double pay for that!

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 11, 2010 1:17 pm

    congratulations! I like avocados as well.

  2. esodhiambo permalink*
    May 11, 2010 1:22 pm

    Yes, but are you 40 feet tall?

  3. volupt permalink
    May 11, 2010 2:11 pm

    So I guess you’re not moving to the DC school system.

  4. esodhiambo permalink*
    May 11, 2010 2:41 pm

    I am not planning to ever move again. But last time I lived there, I tried (really hard) to work for DC schools (pre Michelle)–couldn’t even get an interview or acknowledgment that they had received my application. Unfortunately, that happens a lot in the most troubled school systems–they are just totally inefficient. For example, I would love to work for my local troubled urban school district, and apparently they would also love for me to work for them because they call me every year for an interview…on the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. Seriously, if all the other districts hire in the spring, who is left available and jobless in September? As much as I’d love to work for you, RCSD, I can’t very well abandon my commitment to my current contract and leave my school high and dry, can I?

  5. amyg permalink
    May 11, 2010 7:49 pm

    Sorry I missed your 55th! Time flies when you’re having fun . . .

  6. May 11, 2010 8:28 pm

    I also like avocados AND I am at least closer to 40 ft tall than any other woman I know. You’ve got me on the 55 thing though. I’ll let you have that one.

    Congrats on tenure. I think I’d take the double pay too.

  7. esodhiambo permalink*
    May 11, 2010 9:59 pm

    No one has contested my soccer skills, yet. Surprising.

  8. Aaron I permalink
    May 11, 2010 10:50 pm

    When I was dragged to see Letters to Juliet, I saw a preview for a documentary about how crappy public education is, with some soundbites from the DC super. Just great. Made me feel more ill than Letters to Juliet did. Congrats on your tenure 🙂

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