TENURE — Treating Educators as Nonessential Useless Replaceable Employees

Posted: August 22, 2012 in From Student to Teacher
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In many right to work states like Georgia, tenure means very little.  In most cases, it is a simple certificate of recognition at the end of another demanding year attempting to teach hundreds of children.  Tenure, for thousands of teachers, does not grant educators immunity from the chopping block, transfers, or all of the above.  There are some unique cases, outside of the realm of legitimate influential teacher unions, such as my last experience at Chapel Hill High School.

At Chapel Hill, if you were stalwart enough to survive the daily onslaught from parents, and played the politics well enough to survive the requisite probationary period of three years, and had previous experience to grant you tenure, then you essentially joined the ranks of the Titans.  The Titans were the tenured faculty who had taught at Chapel Hill High School for several years and their pens were forged with iron coated titanium.  These lucky dozen used their tenure like a breastplate at times, and a microphone the majority of the year.

The Titans were vociferous at faculty meetings, hostile towards administrative attempts to try to lead, and felt their jobs were secure enough to do all of that without consequence, or retaliation of some sort.  A new superintendent and staff at the district office has changed all that with sudden transfers of a few staff members, which has managed to silence the entire faculty for fear of reprisals and retaliation.

93% or more of articles where educators are interviewed usually include the word “retaliation.”  May I digress momentarily to ponder this: In the high stakes word of education reform measures, hasn’t anyone touting multiple letters after their name ever considered why retaliation is an ever present fear that comes up?  Doesn’t anyone ever ask themselves who these threatening, looming, fear-inspiring figures are in the world of education? Teachers know.

Back to tenure.

My point about the tenure Titans at CHHS in North Carolina is how the tenure might seem useful, but even the world of education has succumbed to the corporate shift in America which has denigrated the employee and labeled him/her as EXPENDABLE.  In Georgia, tenure was considered laughable.  My last principal told the faculty in 2011 that considering the state of our country’s economy, we should all be grateful that we are sitting in his auditorium with a job.

Is it any surprise why so many people suddenly explode into fits of inexplicable violence and tragedies abound from coast to coast?

Opponents of teachers contend that we are babies, always whining, when we have all this summer “vacation,” and other holidays off throughout the year.  They also argue that they don’t have job security so why should teachers?  Plus, tenure keeps poor teachers in the classroom who don’t belong.  We’ve heard it all before.  And there is truth in there.

However, unlike countries like Finland, America places no true value to educators.  They have not set up a comprehensive value on educators, and just how absolutely vital solid educators are to the continuation of civilized society.  I’ve only met a handful of teachers who give the bare minimum in the classroom.  Every other teacher I have come across or read about dedicates as many minutes as possible on any given day to their craft and they are outstanding in their drive and passion.

How can New York, and New Jersey, and Idaho, and the other states that have crippled any fraction of tenure make teachers solely responsible for the academic success of students?  What about environmental issues like the strung out single mother of five who lets them sleep on a park bench while she prostitutes herself for drug money? I taught two of those kids. Or the kids who can’t come to school every day because their immigrant parents are working three jobs and they have to take turns babysitting their younger siblings instead of coming to school? I taught one of them as well.  Then of course, there are the ones who just don’t care, because school isn’t going to give them the instant fame and success they see in the music videos, where rappers make it rain all night and they don’t need to read no Shakespeare to make it rain.  I taught dozens of them.

Check out the article in the New York Times about tenure cuts in the public schools of New York City: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/18/nyregion/nearly-half-of-new-york-city-teachers-are-denied-tenure-in-2012.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

This education beast is so much larger and complex and there are certainly no easy answers.  But the one way punitive system being adopted in state after state is destroying the future of this country’s survival.


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