Before I can right the system's wrongs, or give suggestions worth hearing, I must lay out my credentials. I've been a teacher for the past 14-years, hold certificates in teaching and administration in two states, have coached teams, led clubs, taught in both public and private, and taken leadership roles in schools. I earned a masters in school leadership from Concordia University in 2010, and have taught every grade from K-Adult Ed.
Much more, though, than any credential, the answer to this blog's title is something I had to carefully considered just prior to the summers of 2015 and 2016. In each instance, I had to answer this question because human resources was trying to terminate me. They ask you to resign, but you have the option to speak to the board of ed. Both times, I chose to speak to the board. The results were 1-1.
The reasons for my termination could be stated in many ways, but they can be boiled down to the fact that I am unwilling to keep my mouth shut in the face of institutional dysfunction, especially when the dysfunction negatively impacts the students that are sitting in my class. This was most definitely the case in my tenure with the Grand Rapids Public Schools, but showed its ugly head directly when I was blamed for my students not having text books. And then again when I was evaluated based up a lesson I was told I had to teach; the lesson had grammatical and literary components, and the school had neither grammar book nor novel.
This is not a joke.
So when I sat there, discussing a 'lesson' that had no materials, a lesson that therefore obviously could not happen, but was talked about as if it did, I spoke out. It led to me speaking to the board of ed and keeping a position for the year. The position, I found out later, was that of a sub.
Tony Robbins says that breakthroughs happen in a single moment. That though you may have thought about something for a decade, you decide to act in a single moment. This moment, for me, happened while subbing.
I was assigned a six week position as "extra help" for a 'problem child'.
The kid was 7.
Already, he'd been held back, and terrorized an entire first grade. My job was to take notes and monitor the behavior. I did so and noticed that he seemed to 'act up' anytime he had to do work. I also noticed he had no understanding of the structure of an English book (words left to write, words relating to pictures.) When I mentioned to the principal that the kid get tested for a learning disability, in order to get help, I was told, "I don't even know who I'd ask about that."
That was my moment. When the one in charge had no idea how to get help while a student suffered, terrorized a class, and got socially promoted at the end of the year.
Unacceptable characterizes the entire year I was a sub. I was in 19-different buildings and saw every grade the district offers. It was awful. Adding to this, I'd gotten married the summer before and bought a house in the district. On this paid tour, I thought: this is where my tax dollars go; this is where my kids would go.
I saw things that should never happen, practices that are unethical at best, evil at worst. Basically, 2015/16 was the worst professional year of my life, and I got to see the very bottom of the district. At the end of the year, I was laid off.
When it happened, I didn't have the energy to do anything about it. I was too spiritually and emotionally sick. I'd been physically assaulted 4-5 times during the year, I'd been fucked with too much, and I didn't have the energy.
But that was 8-months ago. I'm emotionally and spiritually on the rise. Physically too. And I still call bullshit.
So directly: who am I to speak? I am someone that taught traditional high school for 13 years, adult ed for one year. I am certified as an expert in the English language, highly qualified in two states. I have a Master’s degree in school leadership, and was a classroom teacher for 13-years. But more than that, I am a man that cares about our country, the kids in our country, and how we educate those kids. I've seen all levels of ed in three states, I've seen some things that works, some that doesn't. Starting next time come the solutions.