Editor's note: A recent Patch article asked for readers' opinions on tenure for Missouri teachers. Patch blogger Aimee Granneman saw the article and decided to address the issue from her own experience.
She said she knows everyone mentioned in the blog, and all instances are actual. She'll go into more detail in a future post, she said.
In the meantime, she's ready for comments.
"I looooove a good debate, full of fact not just opinion," she emailed Patch.
For Whom the Tenure Tolls
The year was 1968. Harriett grew up in a small town about 30 miles southwest of Springfield, Missouri.
She began her teaching career in Chicago, and after accumulating six years of teaching under her belt, she decided to move back to her hometown. She went to the superintendent of her home district who just happened to be a friend of her father's, with hopes of acquiring a shiny new job in the town she called home.
He told her point-blank, "You know Harriett, I'd love to hire you but you're Catholic, and we can't hire Catholics here...but if you drive up the road 10 miles to the town of Republic, the superintendent there is a Catholic and he might hire you."
So Harriett did just that, and she was hired. At some 20 percent less than her male counterparts. When she inquired about the pay discrepancy the reply heard was, "Why...he has a family to feed." Ancient history sure, and we've heard this same old story many times, but Harriett went on to be a stellar teacher for nearly 40 years until she recently passed away.
This, my friends, is why we have tenure and the National Education Association (NEA).
Enter the picture, Jane Cunningham, Missouri Senator of the 7th District.
Political party in this case is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned, so I'm not even going to mention it. What's so important about Jane Cunningham? Well, she just so happens to be the key figure in sponsoring a bill that would remove tenure.
The bill first began requiring double the probationary period for teachers, making them work 10 years instead of five to earn tenure. Also, any layoffs would be based on merit, not seniority. Not so bad, right? Why shouldn't you have stricter rules? I mean if you're doing your job, then no problem right? That seems harmless enough doesn't it? Not so fast.
In order to get enough support for the bill, Cunningham had to remove more sweeping provisions eliminating tenure and requiring dismissal of teachers with more than two years of ineffective evaluations. This changes everything doesn't it. What about the Harriets in Missouri?
Let's look at what tenure means exactly: Prior to gaining tenure, a new teacher is evaluated at least three times a year, the final time typically near the end of the school year. This includes an interview and lots of paperwork. Two or more "walkthrough" evaluations are common where an administrator shows up unannounced to see what's going on. A good administrator knows which of the newbies need more attention and/or mentoring.
"Most districts that I'm aware of have pretty elaborate mentoring programs for newbies, and there is really no reason for a teacher to be hired who cannot do the job after three years," said Vicki Sterling Johnson, a retired and revered teacher/administrator with 26 years of experience.
Let's be real here. We can all name a teacher in our past that we thought was awful, crazy, lazy and just plain mean. Well, I hate to break it to you, 9-year-old Aimee and every other school-aged child for that matter, but welcome to the real world.
What happens when you enter the work place and you have a boss or colleague who happens to fit the same description of awful, crazy, mean, and sometimes even lazy.
Life is not full of puppy dogs and cotton candy. Most importantly, you're not going to like everyone you come in contact with. Even your boss sometimes. Chalk it up to a learning experience and here's why: The NEA also protects the innocent.
About 10 years ago, a young male teacher, we'll call him Andrew, was accused of having porn on his classroom computer. He adamantly denied it, but the district placed him on immediate 'administrative leave of absence.' It was horrible for him. Just imagine if you were innocent and this happened to you? After three weeks of inspecting Andrew's computer from one end to the other, it was discovered that the porn was downloaded on a day he was out, having been replaced, by a SUBSTITUTE.
The NEA hired an attorney to defend him. The district uttered a nearly inaudible 'my bad' after Andrew's reputation had already been tarnished. The NEA was willing to stick up for him from the beginning. What if this was your son, father or heck, your husband. Oh, and you're a stay-at-home mom on a teacher's salary. Attorney's fees? Not an option in this line of work.
Tuck the above information in your pocket for later. Enter average IQ Joe. Average IQ Joe and his multiple identical siblings, who have enough time and money can easily earn a doctorate in education. Average IQ Joe and his cronies are the people who simply just want out of the classroom. How else do you climb the ladder? Go back to school.
Tenure for THESE folks should be more frightening than tenure for the dedicated classroom teacher. Hence, Andrew, being the falsely accused classroom teacher who was under the supervision of a Ph.D. holding administrator.
You ask any superintendent and they will gladly explain how rigorous the hiring process is. All to ensure they aren't getting stuck with an ineffective teacher.
Better yet, I by no means consider myself an educator, but I have taught. Not fulltime but part time to fifth, sixth and seventh-graders. For anyone who has ever taught, this profession is not for the weary. The teaching profession is too demanding, sometimes demeaning, and stressful to enter into unless you're prepared for the job or willing to improve. But, for those embarrassing few, tenure.
And let me tell you, everyone knows who those "embarrassing" few are, including the NEA, administration, and those lucky enough to be co-workers. Very rare is that, when you are put under that microscope, no matter what profession, that you don't realize it.
Those who engage in teaching are qualified, to say the least, or become so after a few false starts. I mean, you better get your act in gear if you plan on paying back those student loans, right? I quite frankly would probably be residing at The Gray Bar Hotel right now if I had to teach full time. Bratty kids, topped by even worse parents who think their children can do no wrong. NO THANK YOU. I would rather be sent to a Turkish prison.
In conclusion, I've never been more certain of two things:
This will continue to cause a stir, therefore likely incurring a part two of this piece, and last but not least, the Dumbing-Down of Administration will more than likely be the death-knell of public education.
Until next time, Aimee...