This Daylog was typed in two sessions: once during December’s Winter Break, and again in January after the start of the semester.
I have an arch nemesis, and for the purposes of this writing, his name will be Jimmy.
Jimmy, bless his heart, is a an older gent and a long term sub covering, among other things, an ELD class. The same class that was abandoned by Mr. Charming. Jimmy is quick to point out that he's never taught any kind of English related course before, as his previous teaching experience has been in the arts. That is not actually a barrier to teaching ELD in this district; ELD classes are not truly considered to be English courses, so they can be taught by literally anyone with any teaching credential.
Is this a shitty system? Hell yes, but it's what we have. The school sites try to specifically get English teachers to teach them, or foreign language teachers, but sometimes Shit Happens and we need an Econ teacher to take over.
Jimmy wants to do well. He is extremely passionate about doing the best for the ELD 1 students, and is constantly looking for ways to improve his pedagogy. That sounds fantastic, right?
Wrong. Our district has a set curriculum for all the ELD classes; the curriculum for 1-2 is more strict than 3, which is more strict than 4. As students progress their English skills, the classes become more loose and let the teachers add or subtract what they see fit, (though skilled ELD teachers would do that in the earlier classes anyway). The point is, he has the ELD1 class because it is, frankly, the easiest to teach from a Curriculum standpoint. Is it bullshit? Probably. But it's what the district has deemed the best route; kids read the text, then do the workbook page. Read, then workbook. As you go forward and gauge the students skills and interests, you can mix it up a little, but you have to be following the curriculum too.
Jimmy doesn't want that. He's asked other teachers (who don't teach ELD or English, which was weird to me) what they thought of the curriculum and what better textbooks there might be. He's requested the school pay for a class set of some other curriculum our district doesn't approve of-- several times. Each new curriculum he finds out about, he sends an email to not only our site admin, but the ELD district coordinator.
For those of you who do not understand, a district goes through a long and lengthy process of teachers and admin looking over proposed curriculum, testing it in classrooms, dealing with the creators and textbook companies, and it takes ages and is a very Big and Official Thing. It is the entire school district saying, "this is what we believe is the best for our students now and we will stick to it." It's not a matter of, "hey lemme have 30 copies of this one 100$ textbook so I can use it in the 12 weeks I am here covering, thanks."
At the beginning of the year, he gave out the ELD placement tests ONLY because someone else printed them out for him, and he refused to score them because he wasn't paid to. Since then, he's been complaining that a lot of his kids are too advanced and need to go to the next class up. I asked if he spoke to the counselors about it, since they are the ones in charge of moving kids, and he never got back to me.
Jimmy does have legitimate complaints. For example, he is 15 kids over the limit. ELD1 courses are required by contract to have only 20 kids, but because Jimmy is a long term sub, and we have no other teachers available, they kept dropping students on him. That is fucked up, and the school has actually hired another teacher to work this upcoming semester to lighten the load.
Another legitimate complaint: the classroom he's in is a computer lab, which is NOT conductive to classroom learning when your class isn't a computer class. Admin is still trying to find a classroom for him (I assume).
Other complaints might have some legitimacy to them, but it's the same thing we all did and he needs to get over because nobody on speaking terms with him can fix it; he got a single hour long training session to teach ELD1 (basically an overview of the curriculum), and complains incessantly that it wasn't enough, and he depreciates himself in comparison to experienced ELD teachers.
I don't know if this is some kind of ingratiating tactic, but it's annoying as fuck. We ALL got the hour long seminar, Jimmy. We ALL were thrown into the ELD program without warning, Jimmy. Is that bullshit? Probably; ideally everybody would be a specific "English as a second language" teacher, but that's not what we are or how it works. If you passed a credential course, you've got your CLAD, so you're legally able to teach ELD, and despite whatever misgivings he has about the curriculum, it's all THERE. It's been PRE-MADE for him to follow. so nut up or shut up, Jimmy.
The other issue is how he manages the classroom. I’ve never seen him in action, but other teachers have and his management is. . . not the best. He yells. A lot. This is actually something that I knew already, because even in the 1-on-1 meetings I've had with him, he starts off calm, then starts getting passionate and yells. He raises his voice and shouts to the heavens about how awful some of the kids are, how they’re smart-alecks, how they don’t do their work. I’ve joked about it before, but it legit activates my fight or flight response.
Just now over Christmas break, he's emailed me about the new teacher coming on, and asking how we determine which kid is going where, because he wants to have all the advanced kids and send the least advanced kids to the new teacher. I repeated to him that we have NO CONTROL over who goes where; that's a thing for the counselors and admin. They will move kids in such a way as to create the least amount of disruption for the master schedule, because moving one kid's schedule effects a bunch of other kids' schedules. He also brought up the issue of kids who were TOO advanced for ELD1. I asked if he ever contacted the counselors for those students, and what their response was.
No answer as of yet.
Jimmy is no longer teaching ELD. But I have still seen him around campus, so I am assuming that he is still covering the computer and econ classes Mr. Charming left behind for him. This is a little unexpected; in all the talks we had about getting a new teacher, the thought was that the new person would get some of the English classes belonging to a teacher on maternity leave, and one set of ELD1. Then Jimmy would continue on with his four classes (because each ELD class is actually a “block” of two periods. If you teach one ELD block, then you have the kids for two class periods. Jimmy had two blocks, so he had four classes), but they would be their proper class size.
Instead, everybody’s schedule got shuffled around, and a teacher who had wanted to teach ELD1, but had been pushed aside to let Charming do it way back at the beginning, got Jimmy’s original load, and a different teacher got the surplus kids to make a 3rd ELD1 bock.
I initially didn’t question this too much, because it was convenient.
Now for something completely different.
I was in my first Department Chair meeting this week.
I had missed the first one I was invited to because they forgot to invite me; the principal’s secretary didn’t know I was the new chair, and didn’t include me in the email. So I had a different meeting arranged on the same day down at the district, thinking it was free. Then I got the call part way through the ELD taskforce meeting asking where I was.
This week, it almost happened again, but the previous ELD Chair (who is a union rep and goes to the meetings because of that title) called to let me know, and called the secretary to let her know I should be on the invite list.
Amidst minutiae about testing dates, results of staff schedule surveys, parent conference night confidentiality issues, there was one thing that the principal was very adamant that we tell out departments about.
“There have been,” she said, “two separate issues with teacher retaliation.”
Then she gave us the rundown.
So sometimes, when students feel like a teacher has crossed some kind of line, they will go to the admin and let them know their concerns. I heard of one case where a teacher at a different school repeatedly used the N word, for example. At our school, in order to try and stay anonymous, it is apparently very common for a whole group of students to go to the admin, and have one of them speak out. This way, the actual complain-ees are hidden in the crowd.
However, it is also very easy for a teacher, upon hearing a student was upset by X-incident, to guess who it was. Our principal keeps her promise of anonymity, but the teacher guesses correctly and later takes it out on the students.
Our principal was careful not to give us too many details about the incidents, and she didn’t say who was involved. She did not even go into much detail about what specific events led to the retaliation, focusing more on the students' desire to stay anonymous and how it failed spectacularly.
However, the details she did let slip were thus:
One recent case had the teacher yelling at the class for over half an hour, calling them backstabbers, asking why they ratted the teacher out.
The principal assured us all that she was dealing with those teachers, but the fact that there were two separate incidents over such a short period of time was highly concerning. She wanted us all to remember and remind our departments that we are professionals and adults, and should act like it.
Now, this is entirely speculative on my part. This is just a thought. I don’t want anybody in the future digging this up and think I am smearing anyone or anything.
But through the entire discussion, she kept using “science” as an example. “If the science teacher says--” “if the kids in their science class think--”
That could be just because she had science on the brain, or that she was consciously using an unrelated department as a red herring, or it could be because one of the incidents took place in a science class.
The other thing that got my noggin joggin was the incident she let slip in #2 up there, about having students look up words. That is a very ELD thing to do.
And, quite frankly, I only know of one ELD teacher who yells. One who, evidently, does not teach ELD1 anymore.