Middle School Confessionals: charter v. public

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Whew! So I haven’t blogged in what feels like a very long time.

Typing feels awkward and my terrible spelling has managed to get worse from disuse ( I already have to spell check like 52 times!) But I came back on because I really miss writing in this form.  I still can’t wrap my head around how fast this month flew by.  I shouldn’t be surprised considering all the preparation, summer professional development ( who ever says teacher have summers off is living under a rock!), and late afternoons spent in my classroom making sure everything was prepared and set up for the next day. This isn’t my first time working with this age group or teaching, but I totally forgot how exhausting all this can be.  Pile on the single mom of a toddler thing and you got yourself the potential for one frazzled lady.

Luckily for me, I have taught before and have been working with young people in educational settings since I was 19, so I feel pretty comfortable with little people and at times actually enjoy them.   My latest teaching experience was at a charter school where  I could easily spend all my days, nights, and weekends totally absorbed in my work and my students. (and weekends!) And contrary to what I previously felt, this time around I am grateful for public, unionized schools.  It means I get to go home at a reasonable hour, have dinner with my son, and actually have a life outside work. If someone told me  five years  ago that I would end up preferring  work at a public (as opposed to ‘state of the art’ charter school) school and actually love it, I would have totally scoffed in disbelief.

What?

Far left me? Accepting my fate as a corporate test proctor in an overly hierarchical urban public school?! Just allowing myself to serve as a cog is this evil school-to-prison pipeline scheme?

Yup.

And here’s why:

1. My job is protected.  When I signed my first teaching contract at that ‘innovative’ charter school I didn’t realize it was ‘at will’ employment. That’s the same type of employment I agreed to as a holiday worker at the mall as a college student-where employers had the right to fire me anytime without reason or warning, and I had the right to simply quit at any time without warning as well.  I wasn’t too phased by it then, but after I started at the charter school I quickly realized that ‘at -will’ employment is not what I spent years and thousands of dollars going to college for.

2. Transparency.  Accountability is important… not via the one dimensional no child left behind act testing nonsense, but from top down.  Everything from job postings, sick days, student progress- is measured and kept track of in a systematic, transparent, no-surprises kinda way.  Not like my experience at said charter where  individual were moved up a few pay grades and into administrative positions without them having proper training or certification, where positions suddenly appeared and folks hired to fill them without there ever having been a job posting… Now, I fully understand it was probably just this particular charter ( because since then, I have worked in other charters that were much, MUCH better than that one…), but it just goes to show…

3. Teaching is a profession. Not just a job. and I greatly appreciate that every other teacher in my building has been through the same or similar hard core training , legal certifications, and all that jazz. Why? Because I have seen what happens when individuals who have not been properly trained or educated are given the enormous responsibilities that come along with  leading groups of young people ( or groups of  teachers) and its just not pretty.

5. I believe in public education (as someone that immigrated from a place that didnt have free public ed, I appreciate it’s potential to be the great equalizer… ( of course that hasn’t been the case here in Providence, but we can dream and work towards it…)

6. I am supported.  By fellow teachers in my building, by others that teach in the district (even if they work way across town), and by my district office. Why? because its such a large system there are many resources available (and because there is a system of accountability in place), unlike my time at the small charter school where it felt very much like every woman for herself.

I am still learning and growing and I am open to new and better ideas.  I still love the emphasis our charters have placed on safe and comfortable learning, student-centered communities where students take risks and grow in multiple ways, not just what can be measured with some culturally biased standardized test. I also still have the desire ( which is family and economically dependent) to home school my child.  But I believe there is a way to combine the best of all worlds, to think creatively and work together to meet young people where they are at while pushing them to grow.

I am interested to see what happens in the next couple of years with some Providence public schools applying to change over to charter status…I wonder if those federal resources will really be worth it, if teachers will still have the same union protection, if our work day will stay a work day and not a work day, evening, and night… ( where we get to teach other people’s kids and not our own) all of that is yet to be seen.

Until then, I will try and keep up my blog and share my adventures teaching middle school:)

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