Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama says some hopey stuff

President Obama gave a speech today in which he outlined the important parts of his education policy. He said a lot of good stuff, but one quote in particular stands out as relevant to my school: "if a teacher is given a chance but still does not improve, there is no excuse for that person to continue teaching."

Damn yes. There are teachers in my building who have been given a reasonable level of support, but they just aren't improving. Obama says get them out, and I agree. He goes on to describe lots of other policies that I think are just peachy (increased pre-K, merit pay, longer school days and school years, and improving state standards and tests), but I have this teacher quality bug stuck in my craw, and I need to vent.

There is one math teacher that I "work" with (I use quotes because, while I would describe my actions as working, I can certainly not say the same for his) who comes into my classroom to get my lesson plan every morning -- he never writes his own. The best part? In my department we send lesson plans out via email, but homeboy still needs to come take a hard copy. This guy doesn't get the emails because he "can't remember his password."

This man is, in almost every professional capacity, a moron. The following are just some of the bone-headed things he has done this year, all while getting paid:
  • He left his classroom unattended earlier this year and a student threw a textbook out the window -- it caused $3000 in damage to a parked car
  • He doesn't lesson plan EVER therefore doesn't live up to his contract
  • He "didn't understand" how to fill out his PPEP form and he copied the Spanish teacher's verbatim
Why is anyone interested in preserving his job? He -- and too many other teachers like him -- is damaging children every day in his classroom. But we can't fire him because the union will throw a hissy fit. If the union were half as interested in doing good things for children as they are in holding informational sessions and sending me robo-calls, then this guy would be long gone. Hopefully Obama lives up to his rhetoric and actually smacks the unions around so they'll release their vice-like death grip on the jobs of idiots.


Tracie said...

Bad teachers CAN get fired, it's just that principals are too lazy, busy or just plain un-preoccupied to do all the paperwork that comes with the 90 day plan. I would hope that your principal would have seen the copied PPEP, sent him a couple of emails and realize how bad he is. Getting away with unprofessional behavior is not just the employee's fault, but the supervisor's fault.

Anonymous said...

It was great to hear Obama speaking about education today !Then you hear the Senator of NC used educational lottery money to be able to balance the state budget ? NCLB and the last eight years has left us like the economy,bank rupt ! End the mandates on NCLB and find the cause and effect for results.Merit pay ? Not a fan ! Charter schools,not a fan but good luck ! Fight back and get the ball Public Education ! Is the stimulus check political rhetoric or do we really get it ? Get your hands out of the children's pie ! Sell off Public Educational school buildings for privatization under the mandates of NCLB and we're still in reauthorization ? Defense Public Education and score for results ! "Fire it up and let's go !" Uh Oh ! Check ! Make it take it !

Anonymous said...

Extended school year? Because of economics or for academic results for children under NCLB ? We cont. to close schools under NCLB ! LA teacher's are in the streets protesting !

Toby said...

Harry, a-friggin-men.

Mr. Potter said...


I agree that many principals don't go through all the hullaballoo to get bad teachers fired... which is exactly my point. Why, when someone is so grossly incompetent, does it take 90 days minimum to fire him? That's an entire advisory! I think our kids deserve better than that. Children have a right to an education -- adults do not a right to a job they don't do well.

Glenn Watson said...

Why does your principal get to skate on this? What could he possibly be doing that is more important than attending to this teacher and firing him? Come on. We don't have to change the firing system. Just use the one we have. This is not the Union's fault, its the principal's!

Bren said...

Question for you, Mr. Potter:

Would standardized testing catch your example's poor performance, in your opinion?

Anonymous said...

Standardized testing may catch some of the problems mentioned in that colleagues's lack of professional responsibilty but what would really do it is principal observation. This is something that Rhee wants to see improved, as principals need to be the instructional leaders of their schools. Too often they have a million other things to do, such as constantly putting out fires especially in the areas of student discipline. But for a math teacher to copy a Spanish teacher's PPEP! That's crazy, plus not using internet? Bet he's been in the system a while, has kept his certification up and has never had to pass either Praxis 1 or 2, and in his case it would be in math education. Bet you next month's mortgage he wouldn't be able to pass it.

usereason said...

I don't like what he did, but that was mild compared to what happens at so many other schools - verbal student abuse, no planning at all (not even using someone else's plan - just total wasted classroom time), too much free time in class, and not keeping up one's training and expertise.

Progressive Educator said...

Hey, Mr. Potter, I have been reading your blog recently and wanted to invite you and your readers to visit my new blog about inclusion sometime.

I hope it will be a forum for sharing ideas about a model that is not well understood here in DC.

I teach in an elementary school, so I honestly don't know how it should work in a middle or high school and I hope others will contribute their experiences about working at those levels.

Also, I'm a new teacher and have a lot to learn myself, in full disclosure.

Anonymous said...

I doubt if Obama will be smaking any unions around at least if he wants to be re-elected. He loved the unions when their membership voted him in as well as volunteered free labor to support his campaign throughout the US not to mention campaign contributions.He had no problems accepting the support from the American Federation of Teachers. Remember they initially supported Hillary Clinton all the way to the end of her campaign.

Obama is like most politicians. Most of the rhetoric he preaches will not impact education in any significant way. His first priority needs to be the financial crisis in the US and the troops overseas.

Anonymous said...

I am thinking this teacher did not make it through the firings that came at the end of the year, but even if that is the case that is still not good enough.

As you look at this teacher and consider the damage he has done to a group of students all year, it is criminal. Yet, even with the 90 day plan or the rule about provisional teachers being fired at the end of the year the students seem to have to suffer for a full year before we are rid of such teachers. I wish there were better answers.

Anonymous said...

It may be interesting to know that a study found that in the majority of cases, incompetent teachers were not fire due to "bureaucratic intertia" From the WA post " Last year, the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute analyzed the contracts in the nation's 50 largest school districts. For most of them, the institute concluded, "the depiction of [collective-bargaining agreements] as an all-powerful, insurmountable barrier to reform may be overstated.
This teacher is a math teacher. In case you haven't read lately, there is a shortage of math teachers lately. If the principal fires him, who will take his place? A sub? He may be horrible, but he is probably better than a long-term sub. At the very least, he has a lesson plan. Perhaps, this is why administrators do not like to fire high-need teachers.
Now, I know you'll say a TFA or DCTF, but with TFA spending 30,000 grand per teacher (an exorbitant cost, exacerbated by the fact they fail federal audits) they can't afford a new one.
Yes, there are incompetent teachers. But in my experience, these are the minority. The majority are hard-working and fiercely passionate. The 90 day rule protects these teachers from losing pay for an offense they did not commit.