Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Plays Well With Others

What does it take for a person to be someone who “plays well with others”? Does it have to be someone who’s a leader? A follower? A diplomat? Someone who cares too much? Someone who cares too little? Someone who takes the extra steps? Or an efficiency expert who sits back and lets everyone else do the work? Someone who volunteers? Or someone who just cooperates? I myself have been at both ends of the “plays well with others” spectrum, sometimes simultaneously. I’ve been both selected and eschewed for my leadership skills, selected and eschewed for my vision, selected and eschewed for my punctiliousness, selected and eschewed for just about everything you need in order to play well with others. In my last teaching incarnation I was often considered someone who does NOT play well with others. Now two years later, another school year has ended, and I have actually been on teams that have wanted me as a player, so I think it’s time to explore the game a little more closely.
My inability to play well with others with any great consistency could stem from the fact that I’ve always preferred activities where I compete only with myself--dancing, swimming, horseback riding, weight-training--to team sports. When I did engage in sport, I was always the one left facing a disappointed team captain after the one with the broken arm and the crutches was chosen by the other side. Obviously, the worst player can only benefit by playing well with others. 

But what about the best players? They can sometimes defeat the team effort when their ambition and skills blind them to those with whom they are playing. Can the parts ever be greater than the whole in team sports? Does playing well with others mean that one not shine TOO much? Or does it mean that one should shine only if s/he adds his or her luster to everyone’s efforts, even the dimmest stars’? Sharing is caring. . . but I’ll save that for another post.
I used to get the “you don’t play well” jab at conferences or meetings. My heart used to sink when, during meetings that always entailed group activities, I was asked to “Share [my] thoughts about [fill in some obvious aspect of student learning] and write those thoughts down on ginormous POST-ITs to display for a ‘Gallery Walk’?” The facilitators would always try to shame everyone into “buy in” by insisting the resistant be “team players,” as if that were the litmus test for how well someone functioned as a classroom teacher, locked in a room with 20-40 NON-team players. Administrators would insist,  “We need to ‘play well with others’ if we want to be successful!” We do? 
While I’m not a team fan, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t tried to build a team. When I was department chair in my former institution, I did away with paper memos and sent email to my colleagues about anything that pertained to our department. I was aiming for transparency but was greeted with "I get more email from you than people I like" or "I never get your emails because you probably don't have my proper email address, and it's YOUR job to figure that out!" 

It also doesn't mean that I didn't take one for the team, such as it was. I gave up an AP class because other teachers, some with poor reputations amongst both faculty and students but with golden district seniority, were pressuring the administration to rotate the class (not sure where the students’ best interest was here, but so be it). Once I let that class go, I quickly saw that even with the great success my students had enjoyed each year, I was probably not going to get it back. Then, I realized that in giving up the AP class, I had made way for the electives I had created, Creative Writing and Shakespeare, to be canceled--classes I had worked hard to prepare for and build to substantial numbers each year (36 and 26 respectively which would be strong by some standards, but weak by my public school’s standards). 
So I had taken not only one, but two and three for the team, and it soon became apparent that I had to ask myself, for which team? By offering these electives to the kids who wanted a wider range of rigorous English courses designed to prepare them well for college, I would not be available to teach the general English classes. Since their number was smaller, the students who wanted to take my courses were sacrificed for the sake of the team--but again which team?  The team of administrators trying to find the most gutless and efficient way to place what they saw only as student bodies into classrooms with interchangeable teachers? The team of teachers vying for the best students under the guise of “doing what’s best for the students”? Or the team of students attending school in order to get a good education?  Not only did I wonder which team I was on, but more important, I wondered why all these factions weren't part of the same team. It was clear that I was on the team that would accuse anyone who would ask such questions of being someone who "does not play well with others" or is not a "team player." Then again, what kind of team would cut down its players like that? I know. . . teams that aren't really teams in the first place.
According to HR websites, playing well with others means bringing solutions to meetings, communicating effectively and positively with coworkers, sharing success and credit for that success, keeping commitments, generating trust by not blaming or blindsiding coworkers. But none of this can happen if we don’t answer the one essential question: How can anyone play well with others whose vision and values they do not share? The answer to that question became increasingly obvious to me, so  I finally packed up my toys and took them to a different sandbox. Truth be told. . . .I can be a team player. . . but only when a team is really a team. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


The school year has finally ended, and I can safely say I made the right decision to leave public school. This year I sat on the sidelines as I watched my former colleagues receive seniority-based RIF (Reduction in Force) notices, better known as “pink slips,” furlough days, and other veiled threats to their well-being in the wake of deep public-school budget cuts. As usual, much of what was threatened was restored by some last minute “windfall”: pink slips were rescinded, the number of furlough days reduced, health care untouched (even though the providers themselves continue to diminish the benefit of “benefits”).  All this sturm and drang has taught teachers that there must be large and powerful conspiracies at work, so they should simply continue to keep their heads down and toil in isolation in a system that doesn’t really count them as much. 

The sad fact is the yearly budget cuts are the only aspect of the system that puts teachers first--they are the first to face untenable class sizes, reduced supplies, or the ever-popular job-on-the-chopping-block. Teachers no longer unite to gain ground, instead they silently lose ground. Workable class sizes, a genuine voice in school policies, sabbaticals, a guaranteed, comfortable retirement have become or are fast becoming things of the past. Teachers now must be grateful simply to have a job. 

This reduction of expectations is the best way to keep a work force cowed and manageable, and that’s the district’s real success. Now it can force its idiot ideas about testing down teachers’ throats without rebellion or even complaint; it can continue to hold teachers accountable for forces beyond any teachers’ control (a students’ family life and value system, for example); and it can continue to expect teachers to take the abuse of students, parents, and administrators without any real protection. As far as teachers are concerned, expect everything, give nothing is the district’s motto.
Then there are the school-wide effects: what had been a highly functioning and unparalleled performing arts magnet in my district has seen its performance budget severely cut; shows, conferences, and trips canceled; its best music teachers cut and not adequately replaced; its general ed. classes doled out to teachers with more seniority but less skill in the larger school; its unique class offerings decimated. The program has effectively been destroyed little by little over the last few years so that what had been a performing arts mecca is struggling not to become a footnote in the annals of what public school could have been. The age-old “if it’s not broken, break it” mentality of the district rules the day. And once again, teachers can either sit by and avert their eyes as the crushing wheels continue to turn or leave of their own free will. 
As I have mentioned in these entries, that’s why I left. After a second 10-year stint in the district, I “graduated” with my kids last year and moved to a private religious school. The year had its challenges to be sure, in that every new teacher must be tested, even if her reputation precedes her, and tested I was. Students who were asked to work harder than they had ever worked before and parents whose shame or guilt overrode their good judgment tried hard to erode the standards I had set in my classes, standards I have always set, standards which have always helped students. But I fought back by being as determined, consistent, and fair as possible. Naturally, once the students saw that they had learned something, that they were (and I really hate this word) “empowered” by what we did in class, their fear eroded, their hearts and minds opened, and the year ended well. 
Now when I go to a faculty meeting, instead of being in a room full of teachers who keep their heads down so as not to engage, who snipe just to have a voice, and who are in many cases embarrassingly unqualified to do the job they were hired to do--all the results of the district's erosion of the profession--I get to work with an astounding, award-winning faculty who really understand the idea of collegiality. I am asked to be at school only to teach, and no one really wastes my time otherwise. I work with an administration who share and support my goals. 
Despite my having landed somewhere safe for now, I still have to ask the question I have always asked: Why are these such impractical goals? 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Recently I was nominated by a former student for a distinguished teaching award offered by a prestigious American university. This is the second award for which I was nominated by a student in as many years, and for both awards, I have placed in the top 10. For last year’s award, though this was not stated outright, I did not make the final cut because, while my former students still loved me and said they learned more than they had learned in any other class in their high-school careers (an exaggeration all good teachers hear, I know), the students did not really represent the disenfranchised urban population, and I did not seem to be performing the kind of miracles one can perform with such a population. The committee did award us runners-up a decent sum of money for the first time in their history because they felt we were such strong teachers nonetheless. And that was lovely. 
This year I have not yet heard whether or not I have placed as one of the the top four winners, but I did, once again, get to speak my mind about this profession, this time to a large panel of people who presumably care about education. Because several on this panel were graduating seniors, I would be speaking my mind to future policy makers, and I felt that voicing the issues was more important to me than being politic and aiming for the win.
As I have said, just the nomination was an immense honor and placing as a finalist is still very moving to me, but what had to be said had to be said. One of the questions posed was a question that lies at the heart of why teachers are often mistreated and always underpaid.
The last interviewer, a wide-eyed senior, asked me this question: “We all know you are a good teacher, but what do you do for your school community?” Yes, she meant besides teach.
As anyone in this profession knows, the implication of such a question is dangerous. First, let's not forget what this profession really entails: prepping, which means closely reading literature and criticism and attending classes and conferences; teaching, which means harnessing the attention of students who often lack impulse control and have no idea what it really means to LEARN until you have unlocked the gates of understanding for them; grading, which means closely reading and writing detailed responses on reams and reams of paper; attending faculty, committee, and professional development meetings. This student's question implies that these essential duties of teaching are somehow not enough, that teachers who want to be seen as serious professionals need to be doing more than "just" their "jobs." 
Ironically, the implication of the question is that only by extending oneself beyond the profession can one be considered a true professional. Yet, would someone ask a true professional like a doctor or lawyer what they do for no pay, as if volunteering time outside their professional duties was a significant part of their professional responsibilities?  
This notion of "professional volunteerism" is lethal because it is the core reason teachers earn salaries that are in no way commensurate with other "professional" salaries.  Stipends for extra work, if offered, are rarely worth the effort and never serve as a true motivation. I have never received a stipend for advising the interdisciplinary journal (which I advised for 15 years at three different schools and for which we won prestigious awards each year), nor do I receive one for the newspaper that I am currently advising, and the tiny stipend I received as a department chair at my former school did not even remotely cover the amount of time and effort I put into the work. It's just expected that teachers will want to do more than what we are actually paid to do, so that's what we do. 
We all know that teachers do all the extra work because we are “passionate” about what we do, but more important we know what needs to be done beyond what our schools and districts are willing to support. 
Unfortunately, the interviewer's question plays into the wide-spread cultural expectation that teachers be martyrs for the cause instead of respectable and well-paid professionals doing what all the lip-service says is “the MOST important and NOBLE work there is!”
The real question here is why teachers face this unspoken expectation. I remember several years ago when I taught the incorrigible son of a formerly famous actor, I phoned him with my concern about his son's lack of progress in my class. The actor responded, in no uncertain terms and in a very husky and profound voice, “He needs to fall in love with you. If he falls in love with you, only then will he learn from you.”
The truth of this answer never left me: Of course, on one level, the actor notes that there is a fine line between pederasty and pedagogy (hence why so many of my colleagues have, over the years, ended up in “rubber rooms” or "on ice" or "paid vacation" until the level of the inappropriate behavior was somehow officially determined). But what he said is true on a deeper level because, let's face it, teachers are idealized parents. 
Everyone remembers the teachers they loved when they were in school, and current students always say, “I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Ms. ______!” or “Mr. _________ROCKS. He’s the BEST!” or “The only class I get out of bed for is Ms.______’s!” It’s clear that beloved teachers, like ideal parents, awaken their students’ better selves. Or as the actor maintained, teachers awaken, just as lovers awaken in all of us, our better selves. 
Either way it’s all about the love, and that’s why it’s NOT all about the money. That’s why it’s all about the unspoken (and sometimes unabashedly spoken) expectation that we serious teachers WANT to give of ourselves all the time because of all the unspoken rewards we receive. . . like all this love. 
That’s the rock and the hard place where we passionate teachers find ourselves. Shouldn't we merit more pay for this ability to inspire, for this ability to get students to write smart, coherent papers and read with analytical depth and emotional sensitivity? Isn't teaching well enough? Does our creating environments that promote intellectual growth and our motivating students so deeply that they are happy to pour out to us their artless love, invalidate our need to be paid well? 
You know. . . I really, really love my doctor. . . maybe I should ask him if I could just pop in for a no-fee check-up?

Friday, February 25, 2011

There's No Biz Like Ed Biz!

The President recently urged the youth of America to become teachers--a noble request, we can agree. But frankly, why should they? 
We have all talked about the degradation and demoralization that students and teachers suffer. In these entries, I have discussed the causes of this demoralization, in particular the malaise caused by a system that can neither praise nor punish. I have discussed the need for excellent teachers and effective evaluation procedures, and I have discussed myriad reasons the system seems to be failing and myriad ways to make the public schools actually conducive to education. But a topic I have not yet really covered here is teacher preparation, which is one of the reasons, if not the key reason, that school districts like mine 1) decided they have to make standardized testing the barometer for success and 2) decided they have to spend time and money to create stringent rules and scripts for teachers, many of whom they never should have hired in the first place.

Several years ago I was asked to guide a student teacher. While most student- teachers enter the room with shiny, motivational posters, big-giant post-its,  ambitious “fun” games, and other “dazzling” (at least they think so) appurtenances, this teacher was of a different breed altogether. He offered none of the glitz; in fact, he offered nothing at all. He wanted to teach drama and resented the fact that he had to put up with English-teacher training to get the job. He had no interest in reading, in thinking, in answering questions, in grading papers, in instructing or in motivating kids, and he made no bones about saying so. All he wanted was to stage-manage school productions and his motivation was, his words: "to get paid a full salary and have the kids do all the work." All that mundane classroom stuff? Not for him. 

I spent that term sitting quietly in a corner of my classroom, cutting out paper dolls from the manilla folders he asked for but NEVER USED as he stood in front of the room unable to get the attention of the 30 kids in his care. As he would fumble in the front of the room, clear his throat, and stare myopically into the crowd of kids, who were checking phones, talking amongst themselves, or heckling him, I cut away person after person in an 11 inch chain, so I would not cause him physical harm as he wasted my students’, and, of course, my time. 

Now, you might ask, why did I not eject him instantly? Well, truth be told, I am a believer. He has not confessed his cynicism immediately and I thought no one would want to become a teacher without the requisite passion. I also thought that if I could teach, anyone could, so all I had to do was confer with him after each class, and he would start to see the light and improve. Soon, however, the proverbial handwriting was on the wall, or maybe I should say the angry graffiti: HE JUST DOESN”T GIVE A $%&*! 

This fellow knew that once he slipped past this silly student-teacher requirement, he would be given a key, a classroom, a bunch of students who would never complain about learning NOTHING, and best of all, NO ONE would have the time or inclination to observe him. Stay quiet, keep your head down, and health insurance, summers off, and job-security would be his.  
After several weeks of thoroughly reviewing his performance with him and realizing that I would never slice through his apathy, I forwarded my evaluation to the student-teacher’s supervisors and mine. I am sure no one will be surprised to learn that no one counseled him out of the profession or failed him in his student-teaching course before more harm could be done. Instead, my students languished until I hammered enough at the process for the administrators to remove him, at least, from my classroom. 
But, you ask yourselves, was he eventually removed from his “teacher-education” program? Is money green?  He was given another lead teacher and actually "passed" the student-teaching requirement of his education program, though his methods, as he was proud to tell me when he saw me again some time later, remained the same. I guess he showed me!
I was reminded of another equally disheartening incident. Several years ago, a few students from the education school that was part of the university where I was earning my masters degree in English were enrolled in a couple of the graduate English classes I was taking. What these students all had in common was the fact that they never did the reading and never had anything to say in class. Well into the semester, tired of failing, I suppose, many of them simply dropped the courses. Lo and behold, a year later at my graduation, there they were, standing proudly under the GRADUATE SCHOOL OF  EDUCATION banner. I guess they showed me!
What these education students showed everyone is what all parents, teachers, retired lawyers, failed doctors, and empty-nest housewives or husbands all know: ANYONE CAN TEACH. But should they? 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I Could Have Danced All Night

 Often teachers who uphold high standards face students who have no standards. In too many instances students receive inflated grades because standards of excellence vary from year to year, class to class. Add to this disparity, along with the ensuing confusion, the fact that we are smack in the middle of the age of entitlement and its bedfellow, zero accountability, and the classroom can become a treacherous place. When I face students who don’t understand why all their “hard work” doesn’t instantly add up to A’s, I first despair; then I offer this:
I spent several of my formative years in a ballet class designed to groom professional dancers, but even at the tender age of nine, I could tell that with all the hard work in the world, I was not going to be one of those professionals. Yes, I had the grace, the musical sensibilities, but I did not have an instep that started under my knee and an extension that tipped the clouds. Our teacher, Mme. T., was a beautiful, if severe, Russian woman whose days of dance glory had long since passed, but her keen eye and exacting standards dominated the room. She would start us at the barre and would glare at us with her stern, icy blue eyes as she marched around the class in ballet slippers with small wooden heels that clicked ominously with her every step. I remember the terror I would feel as she approached. We were to pull up, to stretch, to point fiercely, to turn out as far as we could. She would sometimes bend down to adjust a curled foot, but she always carried a polished wooden stick that she would use to tap us in whichever areas needed to be reminded to tuck in, straighten up, point hard, and turn out. 
After the barre exercises, grueling for their stillness, we would line up to jeté, pirouette, chaîné, pas de bourré across the floor. The class pianist would rev-up, and we each would glide across the floor with as much fleet-footed grace and speed as we could muster. Then would come selection time for the center-of-the-floor exercises. Mme. T. would use her stick to point to us and indicate the spots where we were each to stand for this portion of the class. Invariably, I would make the back row, left corner. 
Now, you might ask, did my mother call to complain about the humiliation I must have suffered at being placed in the back of the room for every class? Or did I cry and feel dispirited because I was not making the kind of progress that would put me into the same league as the pre-professionals? Or did I ever say to myself, “This is just too hard, so I am not even going to try!”?  Or when I finally realized that I should not continue the classes because they would require too much after-school time for a student not on the professional track, did I say, “Well, since I can’t do it, I hate dance! NEVER AGAIN!”? And most important, did I EVER blame Mme T. for upholding standards that I clearly could not meet no matter how hard I tried?
The answer? A resounding NO!
Being in a room with excellence, where nearly unreachable standards were the norm, was a gift. I always knew where I stood, yes, in the back of the room.  And I always knew that even if I could not achieve greatness, greatness existed. For me, that was the truest comfort. To this day, I have taught all my classes with this thought in mind: genuine, hard work not empty praise and pandering (whether to students or parents) yields success and self-esteem. 
These days the only alumni contributions I make are to that ballet school’s scholarship fund; the only cultural contributions I make are to support dance performances in my city; and, most important, one of the only exercises I still love? Dance classes, of course!

Friday, December 17, 2010

"The thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. . ."

Over the years I have had my share of classroom catastrophes--a  boy once threw a stapler at me because he did not like his grade; another tossed a chair because I would not tolerate some behavior that I now cannot remember. Yet another boy came to my summer-school classroom door, one hand on his hip the other arm high, his hand gripping the door frame, body atilt. He greeted me with sleepy eyes and a sly grin and proceeded to slide down the door frame to the floor, passed out in a druggy heap. Another boy suffered from such intense hypo? hyper? or some other sort of glycemia that his head would suddenly drop down onto the desk and. . . . lights out. The first time this happened, I myself nearly passed out, but the kids knew exactly what to do and mobilized instantly--one to the cafeteria for orange juice, the other to the restroom for a cool paper towel. 
But there are other kinds of classroom catastrophes that usually require the application of some sort of mysterious, institutional red sawdust. Though the girls usually know to run from the room should illness suddenly hit them, the boys seem to be less adept at that kind of multitasking. They tend to be paralyzed by their distress, unable to move. One boy, after a breakfast of orange juice and pineapple slices (hmm, was the battery acid canister empty that morning?)  suddenly flew to the front of the room, paused, feet planted, and threw up a stew of orange doused pineapple chunks right next to my desk. The rest of the kids, disgusted and on the verge of losing it themselves, squeezed into a corner of the room as if the mess were going to coagulate into some sort of  man-eating blob. Once another boy, who had eaten only chocolate the entire day, also decided to root himself to my desk, bend slightly forward, and dribble saliva while tepidly claiming he was going to be sick. I got that trash can under his face not a moment too soon to receive the chocolate stream that emanated from his nose and mouth. And I used to like chocolate! (Ah, who am I kidding, I still like it! Takes more than that to frighten me away).
Several years ago, I had a student who suffered from many learning challenges but was mainstreamed anyway (no pun intended, or maybe there is, you decide).  I was teaching a 10th-grade honors English class, where the kids had been mostly uninterested in anything I had to say, but during this particular class, they were riveted. I was going on and on about Macbeth and the Wyrd sisters as I was pushing them to contemplate the statement, “Nothing is but what is not.” They burned their eyes into me, they sealed their mouths shut, and honed their attention. I went on and on because I knew I had them now. Yup, they were getting it at last. After the bell, they filed out silently, and I was awestruck. I was good, but I had no idea that I was THAT good. What a day!
After the class I was about to grab a bite of lunch. . .
. . .when a student, who had come into the room after the class to work through lunch (as kids often did), asked me whether someone had peed. Peed? I whipped around and saw what looked like apple juice puddled in a chair and on the floor beneath that chair and thought, NO, NO WAY, NO ONE PEED, THAT'S JUST . . Wait a minute. . . Then I remembered who had been sitting there. Though I did not perform a taste test, I knew it had to be my learning-challenged student since that had been her seat. But I had no idea how or why or when that could have happened. Then some of the other students from that class came back into the room with their lunch in tow, and I tried my best to be delicate when I asked whether they had “noticed anything during class.” 
“NOTICED ANYTHING?” one girl replied. “ARE YOU KIDDING, ME? NOTICED ANYTHING?” She went on. . .(So and so) started peeing in her chair about 15 minutes into the class, and we were all staring at you in order to get you to see what was happening and to do something about it. But NOOOOOOO, you just went on and on and on, Macbeth this, Macbeth that, Nothing is nothing is nothing, blah blah blah.”

I laughed so hard, I almost. . . . .

Friday, November 12, 2010


Many of the English teachers I have worked with (well, tried to work with) have the capability of high-powered administrative assistants--they are organized, they know how to read, often they know their grammar, and they can manage the bureaucratic requirements effectively. This is not to cast aspersions on administrative assistants, and God knows, they often make much more money than teachers, but it is to say that that this skill set is the only part of what a high school teacher, particularly an English teacher, needs to have. 
Many teachers know they need to teach analytical thinking, but they, themselves, have limited analytical powers. That one has read and perhaps in the best of instances has recognized the subtleties of a text does not an English teacher make, I am sorry to say. 
Teachers are often required to limit themselves to the directives and the habits of mind ingrained in them by often callous and cynical bureaucracies. The public schools hire people they do not trust to do the jobs they do, so they construct all kinds of “support” designed to get ALL teachers to march in sync in the hope that someone will teach someone something. Most teachers tow the lines thrown at them in part because they believe that benefits and retirement are the ultimate reward. Teaching is an easy job if you can just do what you are told without question, and if you knew deep down that you probably could not get work elsewhere, you would probably put up with anything.
Yes, it’s true that the very worst teachers give all teachers a bad reputation, but it is the preponderance of merely adequate teachers that is the most dangerous to the profession. They are the reason people say they trust teachers but in truth don’t really respect them. So, the danger lies not in the worst teachers bringing down the reputation of the rest of the teachers; it lies in the best teachers being brought down by the merely adequate. 
There is no room for adequate in the teaching profession, just as there is no room for simply adequate surgeons. Excellence is the only option. And that is the problem with teacher evaluations: excellence, as I have said many times, lies in the art of teaching, which is too complicated to contemplate and impossible to objectively quantify. Let me enumerate what I see as some of the elements of the art of teaching:
  • the art of knowing and responding to what his/her individual students need
  • the art of knowing more than the student at all times and not being afraid to ask questions if he/she does not
  • the art of being a lifetime learner 
  • the art of being able both to improvise and stay on track
  • the art of balancing humor with “gravitas” or rigor
  • the art of the teacher’s sticking to a mission that both includes the curriculum and maintains a clear and solid moral imperative (by this I mean always keeping in mind why we teach, presuming it’s not just to lord it over kids or salve our egos as we hear ourselves speak) 
  • the art of a teacher’s ability to listen creatively so that the students can hear themselves in a better light than the light they originally tried to shed on a subject 
  • the art of a teacher’s being able to meet students where they are when they walk into the classroom and in turn get them well past where they started 
  • the art of a teacher’s making all students feel safe and potentially successful even when they are struggling
  • the art of a teacher’s being able to motivate students from the core rather than just from their reflexes--getting them to want to learn rather than simply fear the test
  • the art of getting students to analyze, synthesize, and extrapolate rather than rinse and repeat. 
Many administrators have been rewarded with promotions and kudos either to get them OUT of the classroom and out of harms way (we call this demoting up) or for maintaining the status quo. Yet these formerly adequate teachers must evaluate the very qualities that might have eluded them in their own teaching practice. Those in charge believe they can quantify the effectiveness of the entire endeavor  which is why test scores are starting to serve as the basis for all teaching goals. 

The sad truth is that a “good” evaluation usually translates to a teacher’s passing with a C, but for today’s problems, sorry to say, a C is just not good enough. An Austrian friend of mine once said that the philosophy when he went to school was this: A is God; B is teacher; C is student. If “C is teacher,” as it seems to be much of the time, then D is student, and we have enough D’s and F’s already on both sides of the desk.