Her article is as follows:
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Teachers Are Afraid To Speak Out
When I began researching education, the first people I went to for information were the teachers. They’re on the “front lines” of education; who better to enlighten me than the people working in the classrooms?
I discovered that many teachers are afraid to speak frankly to parents. They’re afraid of being disciplined, or even fired for “insubordination.” The ones who spoke with me tended to speak carefully, watching their words – almost as if the walls had ears or as if people were lurking around the corner.
Some teachers agreed to talk with me if we met outside of the classroom. Several told me they’d already been disciplined for talking with parents. One teacher talked with his lawyer before he talked with me. Almost all of them spoke on the condition of absolute anonymity. Three teachers began to talk with me, then decided the risks were too great to continue. Some agreed to give me the gist of their concerns, but they wouldn’t let me take notes or tape the conversation. Some teachers expressed sympathy for my project yet refused to talk about their experiences. A frequent explanation: “I just have a few more years to go to retirement. I can’t afford to get into trouble.”
This is a common theme elsewhere in the state and the country. Bob Dean, chair of the math department for Evergreen High School in Vancouver, WA, told me he’s familiar with the fears.
“When I discovered how reform mathematics was cheating our kids out of a proper education, I instantly became involved in trying to change that fact. I know that many teachers are afraid to speak out. …. I have seen gag orders put on teachers and intimidation used to silence them. Anyone who dares to challenge the latest educational fad is labeled reluctant, out of touch, and a non-team player.”
A Spokane high-school teacher told me he’d been disciplined – including verbal reprimands and a letter in his file – for telling parents he thought the district’s reform mathematics curricula wouldn’t adequately prepare students for college-level mathematics. He said he doesn’t believe administrators want his professional assessment of the system:
“Perhaps the most discouraging observation of the past eight years is that there is no longer a professional discussion of these and other problems regarding high stakes testing and related curriculum issues. Teachers of an ‘old school’ philosophy who are critical of the so called ‘fuzzy math’ and discovery based learning – both of which are used in support of the WASL – are vilified, ostracized and sometimes subject to disciplinary action. Techniques that work, like direct instruction and drill and practice of basic skills, are ridiculed and those that use them are seen as incompetent and ineffective teachers. … Collaboration has become coercion.”
But talking with parents about their child’s academic situation is part of a teacher’s job. When teachers don’t do it freely and forthrightly, children have lost an important ally, and parents have lost an essential element of public Accountability.In February 2008, I interviewed Spokane Superintendent Nancy Stowell. I told her some teachers are worried they’ll receive bad evaluations or be fired for speaking frankly with parents. I added that some teachers believe they’ve been “disciplined” for activity they thought was warranted but that administrators saw as oppositional. This was her response:
“Well, no, it doesn’t surprise me that there are some people who would say that. Certainly, you know, (there is) a wide variety of teachers out there. Some of them very, very successful, and some less successful. And so, you know, people have issues along that continuum. And it’s really the responsibility of principals to work with staff that do have issues along that continuum.“So if a teacher had an issue about either the math curriculum, or what he or she was teaching, or grade level, or any of that, I can understand that a principal would expect that it would be something the teacher and the principal would talk about rather than the teacher kind of going out there. Because it’s the principal who really knows the teacher, and how good the teacher is, and we all want, you know, excellent teachers.”
Parents, please be aware that – although teachers generally do their best every day in the classroom – many have concerns about being absolutely frank with parents.
Dr. Stowell went on to say that “change is difficult,” and some teachers will embrace new ideas while others will be “more resistant.” Sometimes, she said, the problem can be that teachers “are just not wanting to change.” She said if they have good ideas, however, those ideas should be “shared.” She acknowledged that the district could “do a better job” of developing “feedback loops” as a way for teachers to communicate with coordinators.To me, it sounds as though Dr. Stowell might be saying that teachers who intend to give parents their honest professional assessment of their child’s academic situation – including comments that could indicate weaknesses in the curricula, school policy or administration – might actually:
** have other issues,
** not be "successful" teachers anyway, or
**just be resistant to change.
The best way to know how things are is to look at what your children know versus what they should know at their age. Have them professionally tested and assessed by people outside of the district. Speak with people who know which skills are required for the future your children envision for themselves. Take steps to fill in the gaps.Don’t wait until your children are in Grade 12 or applying for college. The longer you wait, the harder it will be. At some point - sooner than you think - it will be too late.
Please note:The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is: Rogers, L. (October, 2008). "Teachers are afraid to speak out." Retrieved December 2, 2008 from the Betrayed Web site: http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com/
I can tell you from first hand conversations with our own teachers that the majority of our teachers when questioned...act/feel the same way as the teachers mentioned above. It is time our teachers got their voices back. We need to make sure that our teachers are really allowed to teach again. If nothing else I guess it is good to know that you are not alone Camdenton, teachers, it is happening all over our nation. It doesn't make it right. Therefore, it is time that we not lose any more great teachers and we, the public, expect accountability for our children and our teachers. We must make our voices heard.