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Noticings and Wonderings from the Fringe

October 30, 2010

It appears that central administration groups have been coaching administrators to use a certain language of nebulous buzz-phrases in their interactions with teachers. Maybe such language was adopted to soften the perception of criticism. I decided to ironically borrow the touchy-feely language in vogue with many districts to pose some of my own noticings and wonderings. I speak, of course, more specifically with regards to urban districts.  The ‘you’ I am speaking to is more likely an admin type, but, hey, if the shoe fits feel free to walk in it a bit.

  • I notice that when I write “noticings” and “wonderings” that the spell check goes on alert.  I wonder why a school district would so enthusiastically adopt words that might not really exist in the dictionary, yet.
  • I noticed there is an inverse relationship between a person’s salary and said person’s direct contact with students.  What can you tell me about that?
  • I notice that the system is broken and the same types are in charge as usual.  I’m wondering why aren’t we fixing it from the top down just like all the other dumb decisions you make?
  • I notice that the people who are most likely to engage in noisy self-portrayal as desperately wanting to help narrow the achievement gap (read: help the poor kids of color) are least likely to have any direct contact with poor neighborhoods and, more importantly the residents of said neighborhoods.  I’m wondering who appointed them spokespeople.
  • I am wondering what  you understand about the differences between socioeconomic groups.  Are administrators aware that they might do well to understand and appreciate some of those differences before they impose their shining visions on the huddled masses yearning to be free?  I am noticing that more often than not, they don’t.
  • I notice that you seem to be from a privileged background.  I wonder, do you have any genuine personal relationships with people who are struggling to make ends meet?   Do they come from a different cultural or ethnic background than yours? Are any of them laborers or recipients of federal aid?
  • I am noticing that districts frequently play the shell games of closing or revamping low-scoring schools.    I wonder how many experienced, skilled teachers are typically hired to replace the ones who have been displaced?
  • I am noticing that I, and a number of my colleagues have had our personal items stolen or damaged and that we have, on occasion, been menaced on some level by family members or residents of the community.  I also notice that there is hazard pay for certain other workers.  I wonder why teachers don’t qualify for that type of pay when we choose to work in certain neighborhoods.
  • I notice there are schools with grave environmental woes, such as leaky ceilings and vermin skittering around.  I wonder, where exactly does all the money go?  How many people are on payroll that really don’t perform essential functions?  How many of them make more than I do?  How much more? Do they have to worry about rising insurance costs too?
  • I notice that I refused to vote for  Colorado State Senate District 33’s author of SB 191 Mike Johnston and did not wish to vote for the Republican candidate either.  I wonder, why was there a write in option for that sole category?  Who should I have written in?

Since I’m on a local politics tangent, for a laugh, and perhaps some more wonderings about the political process, look up Initiated Ordinance 300 for the City and County of Denver.  Oh, nah, let me link it here.

  • I notice that I have deemed it more prudent to disguise my identity in the context of speaking up here.  I wonder, why, given the presumption of freedom of expression that we like to associate with democracy, that should be a concern.
6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2010 9:10 am

    Ah!!! “Wonderings!”

    “MY wondering, dear leader, is how you feel you’re an expert on anything I’m doing here, seeing as you’ve never done it before. My noticing is that there are too many children in here, some whose legally defined needs aren’t being met, and you’re persistently violating my contract. Oops! Is that ‘destructive talk’?”

  2. October 31, 2010 12:41 pm

    I receive “hazard pay” as a “Hard to Staff” school bonus – a voter-approved package paid through San Francisco USD. It’s something of an ironic bonus, in that these “Hard to Staff” schools always lead the layoff lists, given their staff’s low seniority overall.

    That said, while I do think we need to discuss why some schools are hard to staff, and why those schools invariably serve high-needs communities, I dislike the idea of “hazard pay”. I think it feels into racist and classist notions of cultural pathology, dead-end communities and the like. Instead of getting at how institutions have failed communities, we blame communities.

    I know that the conditions at my school – the condition of the building, the severe emotional stress some students are experiencing and its impact on the school community as a whole, all of that – make it a draining job that’s hard to do long-term. And the current solutions for that problem (shock teacher corps on short-term assignments, etc.) do more harm than good. But I don’t want to accept the terms of the debate that terms like “hazard pay” set out.

  3. mariasallee permalink*
    October 31, 2010 2:33 pm

    Thanks for the input. My point about the hazard pay was actually an ironic one, rather than a genuine desire to receive such pay, and your comment further illustrates what I was getting at. However, it is true that certain alarming things have happened to me and my colleagues. Some of us work willingly in these communities, yet are then subject to criticism from ivory tower types for not achieving the right type of miracles in schools that have some very real challenges that would shock the average middle class person. I think it is important that citizens/administrators/politicians better understand the realities of working and living in certain communities and take a hard look at our definition of democracy.

  4. Frederika permalink
    November 2, 2010 12:43 pm

    Yes! to each and all of the above. We have not yet seen the “N” and “W” terms used in our district, so I guess we have something to look forward to. However, this idea of characterizations and classifications of “high-needs” students, “hard to staff(HTS) schools,” and even “hard to staff subjects,” are strangely foggy and mind-numbing. It is as if labeling takes away someone’s responsibility to recognize, and to make some effort to remedy, at least some of the factors contributing to each of these situations. AND, teachers fully understand that many of these HTS schools would not be so damned HTS if the powers that be did something different to change the school climate, the condition of the building, the resourcing of programs in the school, class isze, etc., let alone something to make the kids’ lives easier and less stressful. In our experience in my region, it is some of our lowest functioning schools that seem to repeatedly get the least oversight by district office, lesser resources, less attention to discipline, bigger classes, and the results are obvious. Why can teachers see this and administrators and school boards not work to make the needed adjustments?

  5. November 6, 2010 11:46 am

    I particularly relate with your last “noticing.” I never fully understood the importance of a pseudonyms until I started blogging about public education, especially in high-profile districts.

    • mariasallee permalink*
      November 6, 2010 1:22 pm

      Thanks for the comment, it sounds like I should remain undercover for now. I just read and enjoyed your TFA piece. I then wrote a thoughtful response to it. However, WordPress rejected it, claiming I don’t own my identity, which I suppose is partially true.

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