Archive for March, 2010

Teacher stands up for what is right

March 13, 2010

The Attack on Tenure and Teachers’ Job Security
March 10, 2010 by emmarosenthal
A recent L.A. Weekly article “addressed” the “problem” of getting rid of “bad” teachers. (see link below)

As someone who retired from LAUSD with disability retirement after trying to get the most minimal of accommodations for my dis-ability and facing incredible harassment for such a request;

As someone who requested basic accommodations, found ways to make the whole proposal cost free for the District while offering to fill high need hard to staff areas of education, (bilingual special ed) and fully aware that if I had merely kept my mouth shut, showed Disney movies, gave out busy work, and gave all my students C’s, then I would have had no problem with the same administration, but only had a problem when requesting the resources to do my job well.

As someone who NEVER had a bad evaluation, had several outstanding evaluations, and wrote and received several grants and coordinated several school wide programs;

As someone who filed and won approx 30 grievances against the district for collective and individual violations of the contract, never observing any consequences, reassignments, discipline etc against these principals for such wanton rights violations;

As someone who observed and confronted gross misuse of school funds and a crony system that favored mediocrity and obedience over dedication and commitment to teaching;

As someone who used tenure to defend and advocate for students and the community and teachers, against the will of the administration;

As someone who ONLY KNEW ONE ADMINISTRATOR who went after bad teachers– with the full support of the highly unionized faculty. (I consider her the best administrator I worked with);

As someone who observed administrators go after activists, whistle blowers, community, educator, worker and student advocates while perpetuating or ignoring sexual harassment, sexual abuse, hate speech, racism, sexism, dis-ability discrimination etc. both by staff and students;

As someone who graduated magna cum laude, is bilingual in English and Spanish, continues to study and to teach, is a life long activist and writer;

I find it hard to believe that:

1. Michael Kim, a man with cerebral palsy, who neurologically can’t control his hands, is the best example of the district trying to defend the rights of staff and students against sexual harassment and gropping!

More to point, the District doesn’t WANT dis-abled teachers. This whole case was totally offensive and outrageous, and should be transparent; a perfect example of how dis-ability discrimination is used to take us all down, to set a pretext for greater rights violations.

2. the present administration is able to select the appropriate teachers for dismissal– which of course would explain why it is so hard to fire the teachers the district is trying to fire. It is quite possible that very few of these people should be fired and the ones that need to go are comfortably doing the principal’s bidding!!!

3 given that the City of Los Angeles decided NOT to fire a single cop for beating up press and community members for the May Day demonstration a few years back, wonders what city employees ARE doing that warrants (“the easy” removal from their positions.

4. there are only bad teachers and not bad administrators, who also need to be removed from their positions which the district can do, and doesn’t. It seems that a lot of bad teaching might be resolved by creating acceptable working conditions, starting with a supportive administration.

5. that the grievance process is the problem, The grievance process is a three step process: 1.A meeting with the principal, 2. A meeting with the area supt. And 3. Binding arbitration with an arbitrator chosen by both the union and the district. A principal looses a grievance against a teacher when either the District or the arbitrator chosen by the district says a violation of that teacher’s rights has occurred. In such a situation is it right to assume that it is the teacher that is failing to perform basic assigned duties?

6.that settlements of 40-100 thousand dollars for the removal of teachers the District wants to fire, are excessive and against whom no evidence exists, other than district say so, that these teachers deserve to lose their careers, which includes 5 years of university study, and often thousands of dollars each year for materials the District fails to provide and in a District that has bought out the contracts of several of its superintendants for over half a million dollars.

The entire premise of the Weekly article is that the District can’t fire the teachers it wants to fire because of the Union and tenure, and not that these constructs actually protect the academic freedom of teachers who should not have been brought under scrutiny in the first place.

There is no evidence IN THE ARTICLE, except the District’s say so, that the District is actually trying to fire the BAD teachers. That is an essential missing element of the article. Sure there are bad teachers. But if the district isn’t going after bad teachers, but is going after teachers who demand their rights or the rights of others, then the waste of resources is even more outrageous.

Posted in Anatomy of a Blacklisting, Calling out neo-liberalism, Disability Rights, Education, Human Rights, Immigrant Rights, UTLA, this is what a police state looks like

Early Childhood and curriculum

March 5, 2010

My critical reflection on the ‘fit’ between my own approach to early childhood, the current national political agendas in early childhood education, and the curriculum framework that I am required to work within’.

I am yet to work in the early childhood area however I have had the opportunity to run a Prep/1/2 using the principles of the approach of Reggio Emelia for two years. A situation that would similar to Victoria and the ACT where they are introducing integrated maternity services, childcare, and K to 2 learning places. My practice could be defined as respecting and valuing the ideas of children; emphasising the critical role of communication and relationships for productive learning, and learning to be a learner; art as the primary medium for the expression of children’s thinking; a pace of learning that is in accord with the needs of the particular children; and so, appreciating the different roles this means for teachers. My situation then included team teaching in the classroom and the support of a visiting part-time teacher conversant with the emergent curriculum, and close collaboration and integration with the Art and Garden teacher’s program.

These experiences convinced me that there are better ways to organise public education that is conducive to maximising children’s happiness and flourishing, and that with appropriate support it can be achieved. At this time I was also responsible for overseeing the introduction of Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) and the Principles of Learning and Teaching (PoLT) within the school. The VELS is the curriculum framework and the PoLT addresses the pedagogical questions around student and teacher engagement and curriculum relevance. Many committed and engaged teachers greeted this curriculum reform with enthusiasm. I was fortunate enough to have participated with a number of these teachers in forums under the auspice of the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority.

I remain with the conviction that what we were doing at that school in Prep to 2 was in complete accord with the intention of the VELS and PoLT. For me education means power through knowledge. My interest in education came about partly due to a lifetime of overcoming the sense of failure that my own (non-government) school experience had left me with. I had been encouraged to enter teaching at a time when the Thinking Curriculum was de rigueur. I had a background in community arts, where I had first come across the work of Paulo Freire the Brazilian educator who had illuminated the way in adult literacy and political agency – he coined the phrase ‘Reading the word; reading the world’. While at Latrobe University I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to study Philosophy with Children as a part of my philosophy degree. It was here I found the work of Dewey and Vygotsky. It is all these experiences, and others, that inform my approach to Early Childhood.

In many respects I believe my pedagogical approach is in accord with the aims and intentions of the VELS and the PoLT and the Early Childhood Blueprint which has the vision of providing the means for the holistic development of young children from Year 0 to Year 8 to develop “optimal health and wellbeing”. However I do believe that government Blueprints are one thing and the actuality in schools and learning places for preschool children another. The Victorian Government has been working closely with Early Childhood Victoria and its national office to implement the National Early Childhood Learning Framework. In this regard dues must be given to the latter organisation for keeping the bureaucracy up to the mark and the government honest, so to speak.

I believe as practioners and educators we have an obligation to meet the standards being set by these various blueprints and frameworks. However many of the methods being employed by departmental and regional bureaucrats to improve quality are counter-productive to building teacher confidence and self-respect. If we are to be respected as professionals, and build the profession we need to be prepared to challenge and argue against these pedagogical and industrial counter-reforms that determine so much of what happens in practice. If we wish to recognise the social and political agency of children, preparing them for their active adult participation so necessary for a democracy, then we as the current adults must also actively model our agency in democratic classrooms and learning places.

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