Why Be Honest?
Should a teacher be fired for questioning the principal's actions?
Teachers Don't Belong Here
You’re a well-liked Catholic high school teacher who wants the best for your students. Though they can be loud and obnoxious at times, you know that they respect you and would never want to see harm befall you. It’s not a perfect situation, but it’s one you’ve become accustomed too.
Despite doing everything you can to help prepare them for your quarterly exam, several of your students earn failing grades. Combined with their average for the quarter, a couple of these students should’ve failed your class. Yet, when you see their report card, you notice that the final grade they should’ve received is ten points lower than the one you’re looking at now. Someone must’ve fiddled with the grades, but whom? You decide not to make a big deal out of it because, with all of the sleep you’ve missed, you may have been mistaken about the original grade.
Still, when the following quarter ends you decide to keep a physical record of the final grades you’ve just entered into the online grading system. Once again, a handful of kids should’ve failed your class. However, when you compare the grades on the report cards of the failing students to the ones on your sheet of paper, there is a definite difference. You are positive now that someone is tampering with the grades.
You decide to confide in another teacher who tells you that she keeps having the same problem. She also tells you that two other teachers are having this problem too. When the third semester grades come out, you aren’t surprised to see that more grades have been fixed. The four of you discuss going to someone about this, but, after realizing that nothing happened when you guys complained about the demerit (A teacher gives a student a demerit/ a check mark towards a penalty when they are out of uniform, talking in class, swearing, etc. When they acquire enough demerits, they are given a detention. If they have too many at the end of the year, they aren't allowed to come back in the Fall.) count being off, you decide to leave it alone.
Though it’s a bit of a shock to you considering all you’ve accomplished with your students this year, you aren’t really surprised to learn that your principal has found reasons why he shouldn’t keep the four of you on staff next year. You’re out of a job now. However, considering what happened to a large percentage of teachers in New York City, you know things could’ve been worse.
Yes, there are teachers in NYC (and other cities across the country) who are sitting in “rubber rooms” as I write this waiting for a discipline hearing for what you were just kicked out of your school for. According to CNN.com, as the teacher’s union requires that every questionable teacher be given a disciplinary hearing instead of just being fired, seven hundred teachers are being paid to wait in a “rubber room” until the day of the hearing. For some teachers, that day comes within a month or two. For others, they have been waiting for five years and may still have to wait longer. No matter the case, these teachers are paid their regular salary to wait in this room five days a week for seven hours a day and are required to do nothing in this room but are forbidden to do anything that may resemble schoolwork. This may seem like an ideal situation for many people. For these teachers, it’s hell.
They are here because they asked questions about failing grades that somehow turned into passing ones. They are here because they reprimanded a student for slicing them with a pair of scissors. They are here because they weren’t fast enough to tell a student to take off their hat. All of these teachers did something to bother their principal and because the principal had no charge strong enough to get these teachers on, he/she compiled lists of minor charges that amounted to a lot. The principal simply didn’t like the teacher and, had he/she overseen a Catholic school, he/she may have been able to fire the teacher. Yet, because these principals oversee public schools, all they can do is sentence these teachers to years of waiting. These wonderful teachers are now being wasted while their temperamental and devious principals get to keep turning their former schools into superficially sound cesspools. It is an outrage.
One would hope that because CNN has taken an interest in the plight of these teachers, something will be done. This is good and a definite step in the right direction. However, as I am familiar with more than a couple Catholic schools who follow the same practice, I wonder when something will be done about them? How many fantastic teachers will students have to lose before someone takes notice? When will these schools realize that just because they can change the numbers it doesn’t mean they are changing the situation or the eventual outcome of the students? I suppose this is not a concern of the principals. Students be damned!
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2009 L A Walsh