Negotiations And Shadows
What we love and loathe about living in East Greenwich this week.
RANT: My life is all about negotiation right now. I live with a teen and a pre-teen. ‘Nuff said. So I get that the teachers' union and School Committee are about to enter so tough discussions. One suggestion though – we try and do the Oprah and Dr Phil talk:
“I feel that when teacher appointments are based on seniority and not performance that you are limiting principals’ and administrators’ control over who gets placed in their schools and that makes me feel powerless.”
“When seniority is not considered as a criteria for teacher appointment, you don’t appreciate my expertise and experience and that makes me feel bad and scared.”
I am not sure if it helps us solve anything more quickly, but it does make us feel like Charlie Sheen might walk in any moment to tell us we need some Anger Management.
Anyway, the question of seniority vs. performance is not my bailiwick. Although I do know that last year a Teacher of the Year in Massachusetts was bumped by a more senior teacher when the awarded teacher’s high school merged with another district school. On the other hand, this move to eliminate seniority could also be seen as an underhanded way to weaken the teachers' union and pay teachers less.
You can see why I have no rant about this issue. But here is the one thing that I don’t get after reading the article about the issue in the Patch: Why do teacher contracts expire just a few days before school begins?
OK, I know they are starting to talk now. But we all know that these talks are often taken to the last nanosecond to be worked out – if they are worked out and there isn’t a strike. So why can’t the contracts expire at the end of the school year which at least gives the parties involved a couple of months of wiggle room to come to an agreement before school starts so the kids – because this is ultimately about the kids, right? – aren’t impacted.
I am sure there is some perfectly good legal reason why things are the way they are. I would just like to know what that is. In the meantime, just in case no amicable decision is worked out, my kids are available for sitting should summer vacation be extended into September!
RAVE: On the subject of schools, what I would hate to see happen in the wake of all of these negotiations is for the teachers and principals to be seen as the bad guys. In my role as a board member of the Cultural Organization of the Arts (COA), I am often a time traveler at our schools. I may end up visiting everything from the lower elementary grades to the high school in a single day and my impression has always been of people who are committed to teaching our children and making our schools exciting and fun places to be.
This week, I had a more personal experience at the schools. My son shadowed at the high school. Up until now, he has been at the Waldorf School in Richmond, which is a very different environment than the public schools. There are only 18 students in his class and he has been with the same teacher since first grade. So he was in for a culture shock.
I want to interject here and say that I have always been a huge supporter of the public school system. However, I am not a big fan of standardized testing and the pedagogical fallout from this form of teaching. This is a very brief synopsis for a much longer discussion on why we have not, until now, used what is universally acknowledged as a very good school district.
So back to my son. Well, actually, back to me because I have to say that while I didn’t hate high school, I didn’t love it either. If someone – presumably someone with (evil) magic powers – came up to me and said I could return to any decade I wanted, ages 13 to 18 would not be on my top 10. High school was just something I got through until I could go to college. This was partially my fault. I had no idea that there were clubs I could have joined and sports I could have played. I did try out for the annual play but I was awful – actually, awful and inaudible – and I played the clarinet in the orchestra, band, and marching band, but that was it. My friend Anne, whom I have known my entire life, somehow did know about the clubs and managed to be in practically every one. I am not exaggerating. Just take a look at our yearbook: Key Club? There’s Anne. Groundlings (whatever they are when they’re at home): There’s Anne. National Honor Society? There’s Anne (OK, to be fair, I was in that one too, but I’m not sure how or what we did or even if we ever met). Drama Club? There’s Anne. Thespian Society? Ditto. Spring Carnival? Model Congress? High School Hospitality? Band? Scope (the yearbook)? Ditto, ditto, and ditto redux. We apparently also had clubs for bowling, tennis, math, Pep-Nite, the school newspaper, fencing, radio and a few dozen other things. Who knew? I sure as heck didn’t!
OK, now back to my son. Because I do hope that his high school experience is at the very least less passive than mine. However, his enthusiasm was noticeably muted. His only experience of the high school up until now had been when he was seven or so and we used to go to the Summer Rec shows on Friday afternoons. One day, after we had been a few times, he looked around as we entered the (old) entrance and asked, “What is this place anyway?”
“It’s the high school,” I replied. “This is where you are going to go one day.”
He stared at the industrial colored walls (the walls at his school are pastel and lazured) and the industrial tiled floors (the floors at his school are wood) and then said, “I don’t think so.”
So here was the big day. He was going to spend the day shadowing a ninth grader. We entered the (new) entrance and were led to the Guidance Office where he, along with a classmate of his who was also shadowing, were warmly welcomed. Six and a half hours – ok, six hours and thirty-five minutes later (I admit, I was bad mommy and five minutes late), I picked him up and asked him how it went.
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” PAUSE. “Actually, it was pretty good.”
High praise indeed from a 14 year old.