Monday, August 27, 2007

In the public eye

Many thoughts have almost bubbled up into a post here this past week, but there has been a lot of competition for my time, mainly setting up my classroom for the new school year. I've put in well over a week so far on my own time. Tomorrow I HAVE to report, and it will be a day I'm finally paid for. Classroom teachers reading this are nodding their heads, uh-huh.

In the meantime...

There was recently an amazing story reported by Doug Noon about an elementary school in Alaska that turned down state bonuses for staff members because their kids had made great academic gains. The story was reported here.

There were some interesting comments left on Doug's post, including one from Melissa, in Oregon, which cited an article where the sentiment, especially in the comments, was clearly of the mind that teachers have got it made.

Which brings me to something that has been bugging me no end - that those of us in the classroom are truly helpless in the public eye. I'm talking about people commenting anonymously on blogs and other online publications having free reign to take potshots. Consider this post and following comments. The public has a field day saying whatever... The one employee who engaged in the conversation and was not anonymous is no longer employed by the school district. Would I have liked to say something there? Of course - but at what price?

My school recently had a particularly nasty incident with our school's Wikipedia entry. Somebody altered the entry with several libelous, judgemental, unsubstantiated statements. After I fixed the damage (immediately), how did we deal with it? On our own, in-house. Would it have been nice - maybe even appropriate - to be backed up by our employer? Of course.

What is my point in this ramble, exactly? I guess it's that teachers at schools are really out there on our own in this medium. You gotta watch what you say. And you are at the mercy of a potential multitude of folks who are ready to say anything, with nothing to lose, anonymously.

To all the teachers like Mary, at that school that went through the very difficult discussion about the ethics of accepting money because of the achievement of their students, I say thank you. Thanks for the uncomfortable time you are spending in the public eye. You came up with a decision that had to be incredibly divisive - and now you are exposed to all kinds of criticism, from colleagues and the public. I hope you are able to move and have a great year with your kids.


JSG said...

This has been the practice in Florida for some time, but refusing the money isn't permitted. How about New York City's proposal to pay students?

Sarah said...

You have so much integrity and are such a fine example of the kind of teacher that we need so much for children, thank you for going into teaching.
And thank you for your support of my efforts to use this "medium" as it should be used.

I am after a year revamping how I think about it. And how I use it.

I have decided that comments should be supportive and positive so I am trying to alter my relationship to this.
And I have seen that some folks are extremely brash. And that doesn't feel so great.
I'm learning and listening well.

One of the things I've tried to MODEL in my career is not advantaging myself over others. It is TODAY the biggest problem our society faces. It causes so much trouble. Some have more, others less. It is hard to resist getting a better room, having something other do not. Believe me being the one to volunteer to take less has always been hard to do. But it is important. This way I can look children in the face when I teach it in the room. My point, when the system was put in to "reward" my first thought was how this translates. What does it really say. I, myself was very upset years ago before the money disappeared when one school in our district got 10,000 bonuses. They of course drawing from a different neighborhood with far less of the issues I had in my area. It was simply ridiculous. Had they turned it down I could have respect-as it was I felt disheartened as I have at so many things withing the constructs this NCLB legislation rolled into place . As states translated it into practices that are so iffy.
At least from my view. I found it far from motivational. What I do many would find very, very challenging if not down right hard. So for this we are sanctioned.
Ah the intelligence guiding these things.

What we do is deal with rapidly moving transient kids, extreme poverty, crime, dysfunction and society gives us a nice punishment schema.Because as sure as there are rewards there are punishments.

Very cool post.

Mark Ahlness said...

JSG, Thanks for the pointer to the article, I linked to it here. I think paying kids, besides the ethical agruments against, sends clearly the message that it's only about passing the test, never mind learning anything at school - at least that's the message that comes across to me.

Sarah, thanks for your kind words. It sure is hard to stay positive sometimes, so I applaud your resolution to stay on the plus side of things. Thanks for being a passionate champion for those with less. This is why cloning is such a good idea - the world needs a lot more folk like you. Have a terrific year! - Mark