9/27/10

How come Charters attract so many younger teachers?

When I was searching for a teaching job 2 years ago I ran across a charter in Harlem, NYC that is considered fairly 'successful'. During the phone interview process I was informed about the hours (stay very late once a week and work 9 hour days for higher pay) and the calendar days (July to August; no summers really). I was also informed that I'd be expected to go on a mandatory 4-day or a week-long retreat with other staff member at some campus nearby. I put on the brakes hard and fast and asked, "what if you have a family?, I can't go on a retreat and leave my family, my daughter is only 1". She sounded puzzled and annoyed, and said she would have to get back to me on this one for they have never had that problem before. Never had that problem? Have a staff with family!!? Gee, I immediately wondered if I'd be the oldest person there.

This experience made me reflect upon my own charter years. No wonder some charters do so well; it all made sense. They hire young teachers not because they are fresh and vibrant and 'unjaded', but because they can work LOOOOOONG hours and have no family and can commit fully to the task at hand. I use to work for a charter in DC (SAIL) for four years; that was BEFORE I had children or was married. The hours were not as long as the charter above, yet, the expectations were literally blood and tears; and believe me I did bleed and cry often. They did not ask you to stay late, but it was clear that you needed to meet certain expectations to remain. We worked with children with special need and a high number of at-risk kids who often were not succeeding in the public schools, and it was incredibly hard work. I can't deny the energy amongst the teachers about the dire importance of our task was very palpable and sometimes addicting; perhaps that is what kept us going for as long as we did. I actually miss the strong camaraderie we all shared in that environment. it was like bonding in war times. Yet, (and there is always a big YET) at no other job was I spit on, kicked, or expected to restrain out-of-control violent children on a daily basis. This was literally blood and tears. Needless to say, it was a high burn-out situation and i could not wait to get out of there once I got pregnant. The stress level was enormous and not conducive to a long-term emotional stability required for parenting. Most teachers were there for at most 4 or 5 years and after that they were ready to move to a more humane working situation. The people who have stayed behind are of course, not yet married and without kids.

Therefore, of course your kids will do well at a charter. We are practically raising them. They are with us 9 ours a day and sometimes longer, they don't even get to spend summer at home with you. Hey, I would not even be surprised if part of the job description was that parents could call you anytime of the night as if you were a second parent and had no other life but being a teacher. Now this is not a sure solution to our nation's problems, it might look like it is, but it's not. Young overworked teachers who will want OUT after 5 years once they are married or have kids is not a solution to our country-wide public education issues; it is a very weak and small band aid, yet, not a solution by miles. Don't take my word for it, go to any charter school that requires long hours and 3-day retreats and see if you find the majority of teachers to be married with small kids or without kids or with older kids? I bet you will find the majority are teachers who have plenty of time to spare and no small children at home.


My big questions are then,
* What does this do to the teaching prifession as a whole?
* Does experience count any more?
* Does this replace having to actually deal with the social inequitied that create such troubled children?
* Doesn't this mean we ultimately just want teachers to raise our children fully, and what then should be the role of the parent?



1 comment:

  1. Good piece Mir, and don't forget most Charter Schools do not allow any unions, so no one to guard for proper, lawful labor conditions. It presumes an unrealistic commitment of one's time instead of a genuine collaborative effort. Yo have a large group of young teachers who burn out faster than they should and are lost forever to this sort of slavelabor situations... I saw a documentary about factories in China where the women are working 12 hours a day or more and after 3 years they are so tired they are fired for noncompliance...

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