I had a friend ask me recently, "Do you hate your paycheck?" I replied, "No. What makes you think I do?" He replied, "You are biting the hand that feeds you." I guess he's been reading a few of the things I've been writing on Facebook.
I don't hate my paycheck. What I hate is seeing public education degraded. What I hate is our school district moving away from a "student-centered" scheduling model to a "school grade-centered" scheduling model, where we force students into AP classes for the purpose of squeezing every possible acceleration point out of them in order to improve school grades. We push students into 4 and 5 AP classes regardless of what they actually want or whether or not it fits into their career goals, extracurricular activities, or their after school work schedule. We do this even though we know that doing so will increase the stress, depression, and even suicidal thoughts of many of our students. Student mental health is far more important to me than a school grade or even my own paycheck. I don't see how we can avoid liability for the harm that we are doing to our students. How can we say we support mental health counseling when we are contributing to the negative mental health issues of our students?
I've had a couple conversations with reporters over the past couple of months...one just last week. Interestingly enough, when I mentioned the topic of forcing students into accelerated classes such as AP, both reporters had their own personal stories about what happened to their own children. One student was a great Honors student before she was forced into AP classes against her will. After being forced into the classes, she had 4 D's. She was drowning in stress and work.
If you are a teacher, just ask your students how many of them have been forced into an AP class against their wishes. You will be surprised. I'm not surprised. Not when the Deputy Superintendent tells all of the Principals, Assistant Principals of Instruction, and Guidance Department Chairs in a meeting that “a parent not wanting their child in an AP class is not a good enough reason not to schedule students into an AP class”...or even multiple AP classes.
One response that counselors get from students when they inform them that they are going to have to either take or stay in an AP class is for the student to respond, "Ok, then I'll just fail!" Then the student proceeds to skip class on a regular basis. If the class is a core class, the student might be able to get out at the semester break so that they can double up and take an online class to make up the credit. If the class is an elective, the student will probably remain in that class for the rest of the year.
When we do this to students, we set them up for failure. When a student wants to try a more challenging class and they are on board for taking an AP class, its not being done “to” them...it's the school working “with” them to help them reach their dreams. When we force them into accelerated classes, then we are doing it to them, and, in many cases, the student crashes and burns, experiences depression, learns to hate school, and is changed in their mental attitude toward life. Can a student recover from such a life-altering experience? I have heard and read too many stories to deny or dismiss the reality of what we are doing to many of our students.
The AP push is just one topic that concerns me. I am also concerned with our lax discipline policies that are increasing bad behavior and student disrespect toward teachers, which is leading to an overall unsafe environment at many schools. I am very concerned with low teacher morale, teacher shortages, low teacher autonomy, and eventual low teacher quality as a result. Our school system will rise or fall with the quality of the teachers we are able to hire for each classroom. We are heading in the opposite direction of quality. We are doing this to ourselves.
I am deeply concerned that I don't see the urgency in our school board or our district staff. I love attending school board meetings when everyone claps often for all of the successes taking place around the district. I still can't shake the one school board meeting when teachers "marched" outside of the boardroom before the open-comment period started at 4:30 PM. And then an avalanche of complaints gushed out of each speaker who was given 3 minutes to unload. To Chairman Sublette's credit, he extended the period of time for speakers by 15 minutes just to let them all finish. It was eye-opening to the extent that the School Board was rattled. They looked like a hurricane force wind hit them when they came out of their recess period. They came out swinging. One School Board member even said that none of them wanted to be on the Board. Another member said, "Why are you blaming us?" Another member said that they need to meet with the CTA directly in order to hear this stuff more often...straight from them. This was the first they had ever heard all of this stuff. Really? Can there really be that massive of a disconnect between what is happening at schools and what is happening in the Board room?
We have a lot of ground to cover...there are many other reasons why I am running. I haven't even mentioned what we are doing to the love of reading, 3rd grade progression, Kindergarten, Marzano madness, low teacher pay that's not keeping up with the cost of living, over-testing, school overcrowding, the madness coming from the state, etc. There's too much to list...we need a lot of informed help in education...both at the district and state level.
I need your help. I need people to care about education. I need people to care enough to get involved in being part of the solution. We need to spread the message. I need a grassroots effort of about 20,000 people giving $5 each. I need 1000 people willing to pass out flyers to their neighborhoods...just hanging flyers on doorknobs to give neighbors the opportunity to read a positive message about the direction I would like to see education take in our school district. I need help.
I don't hate my paycheck...I also don't like biting the hand that feeds me, if that's what it looks like I'm doing. I actually like a lot of the people down at the District office...I consider many to be my friends. This isn't about me, this isn't about anyone else...this is about a different way of thinking and doing business. I want to bring positive change to our school district. I want our school district to become the finest place to both learn and work. We can do better.
If you want to be one of those 20,000 Grass-Rooters for Fitz who can give $5...visit my website at the link below...If you can give for 4 people, then give $20...if you can give for 20 people, then give $100...give whatever you can...the power of We over Me...