Friday, December 16, 2011


I was startled out of my post-concert stupor by 5 first graders gathered around the sink shrieking "Headlights! Headlights in the sink! Headlights in the sink!" I know what they think headlights are, so I scrambled over to see what the heck they were talking about. Sure enough, scurrying around the bottom of the sink is a Silverfish.

I had to admit, I could see the resemblance. Five years ago I was teaching guided reading and watched in horror as a giant lice came out for a stroll on one of my student's forehead. Granted, I was a little traumatized, but I do remember thinking the pencil-lead grey bug did look a bit like a Silverfish. Except not so shiny and pretty.

The "headlight" sent them off on into a frenzy, and it took awhile to settle everyone back down.

Veering off onto a completely different topic (but one almost as icky as lice), we received an email about a revision to our "employee handbook". In case you haven't been keeping up with the news, in Wisconsin things are a bit unsettled for teachers and other public employees. We lost our contracts, which the wording of had been built over decades and lots of finessing on the parts of the school board and our negotiators who represented us teachers. With that gone, something had to replace the legal-and-business aspects of our employment. Enter the "employee handbook".

Let's just put politics aside for a moment, as this has less to do with left or right and more about the assumption that we are still waiting for Superman. The issue that has everyone in an uproar is a new way to determine layoff potentials. Instead of the usual tenure-based system of seniority by years in service, it appears now that our employment will be based on a) performance b) credentials and beyond-initial-licensure education and c) years in service - in that order.

At first glance, I was actually a bit psyched about this. I'm a good teacher, I'm getting my masters and thinking about education beyond that, but I have few years in the district. It would seem unwise to keep a more senior, but less talented teacher in the place of a newer but more effective teacher. Cut and dry, right? Not so much, it appears. Should I be sweating it because my students are not making the expected progress in reading this year? I am working hard to teach them and help them learn, but would that be enough in the light of an evaluation that took reading levels into account as a priority?

I can understand the fear of this new system, even though I think it might keep us all on our toes. And we really do need to be on our toes if we are going to teach the kids that we are raising these days. I wouldn't accept mediocre care from a doctor, and if the oil-change guy consistently shorted me half of a quart of oil every change I'd be finding a new place to change my oil. I don't think that we can accept any less than the highest standards for our art and ourselves. If only teaching wasn't such a subjective art.

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