Next week, I am returning early to school to set up my room and get ready for my final year as a public school teacher. If you listen to the so-called reformers, we union teachers are a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings who only care about our high pay. Last Saturday, I went to Staples for Teacher Recognition Day to get a few discounted items. I ended up paying over $200 for essential supplies. Being that our school has no budget for supplies, I had to buy dry erase markers, white board cleaning fluid, pens, pencils, index cards, extra notebooks, fasteners, paper clips, binders for my lessons and monitoring tools, a lesson plan book, etc., etc.
When I get to school tomorrow, I will have to move furniture, inventory my supplies, climb, tape, and clean. It will take many, many hours to do all this. I do this out of love and not any type of monetary compensation. I can spend the extra week relaxing, but it would be impossible to be ready for the kids if I did not do this. By the way, I worked all summer until Friday. I worked in one of the special education offices for the Department of Education. I did annual reviews for students who receive special services by the DOE, but remain in private schools at their parent’s expense. I did over 130 cases because during the school year there are not enough people in the office I worked in to do the job. Why do I work? I have to. I am grateful to have this job because if I did not earn the extra money, I could not make ends meet. Besides me, almost every teacher in my school has to work in the summer. However, according to the reformers, we have these fabulous summers off to lounge in the sun.
I am starting this year with a lot of apprehension over the new evaluation system that has been imposed by our state education department. As a special education teacher, I am very concerned. Only five percent of disabled students passed the ELA and math tests. Therefore, if my kids do not show enough growth on tests that play into the disabilities these students have, I may be rated ineffective no matter how effective I am rated in the classroom.
Recently I read in Diane Ravitch’s blog about the Common Core first grade curriculum in which six-year-olds have to learn comparative religion and the impact geography had on the development of the ancient river valley civilizations in Mesopotamia ( I kid you not). This ELA unit has hundreds of abstract vocabulary concepts that used to be taught in middle and high school. I have to look now at the curriculum that my fourth and fifth grade resource students will have to learn. I hope that micro and macroeconomic concepts do not come into play for my age group or I do not stand a chance of being an effective special education teacher of learning disabled and language impaired students.
Seriously, I do not plan to change the way I teach my students. I will do my best to teach them the skills that they really need to succeed. My goals are for my student to meet their IEP objectives. I care not one iota about this curriculum. I will not teach them goals that are unachievable. Whatever happens will happen. I plan to do my “personal best” as I have done since 1978. I know that for the last 35 years, I have been an effective special education teacher in which most of my career has been with high need students. I taught kids that had everything stacked against them. Yet, I do know many who have made it against all odds. One of my students is a supervisor for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (who has a learning-disabled adolescent) and another is presently a registered male nurse in a large city hospital after spending part of his life in a correctional facility. These former students are real people and not data driven numbers or some TFA made-up anecdote.
I will tell you one thing. When I retire on July 1, 2014, I am not going to rest. I am just closing a chapter. I plan to begin anew. I plan a chapter in which I will adamantly advocate for disabled children and fight to save the public education system. We retired teachers will become an army to oppose the reformers and privateers. We cannot be intimidated and will not be afraid to speak truth to power.