Sunday, August 31, 2014

If I Were to Write a Book About the Pitfalls of Teaching,

this is what I would include in my book:

Teaching is not seen as a profession. Teachers are seen as a dime a dozen by school district administrators and are treated accordingly.

Nepotism and political contacts are rampant in school district hiring practices. Civil service regulations don't apply to school districts, so favoritism is rampant. Outside teaching applicants face an uphill battle getting any kind of decent teaching job in most areas of the country because jobs are often reserved for somebody's kid or spouse or friend. Teacher applicants may wind up having wasted tens of thousands of dollars on student loans or paying out of pocket to become teachers only to find they are stuck working for years and years as substitutes for lousy pay and no benefits or working as a classified worker far beneath their education, also often at part-time pay and no benefits.

Related to the above: Make sure you have a Plan B career path since a teaching career can be so easily taken away from you.

Teachers must have access to outside legal counsel in order to keep a job.

"Tenure" does not exist in the K-12 teaching profession. Teachers have very little job security even when they achieve post-probationary status and the dubious right to a sham hearing, misnamed "tenure" when it is no such thing. Only in a handful of urban school districts like NYC do teachers have any real job protections, and even there, it's an uphill battle for teachers to win.

"Knowing your contract" is fine and dandy, but realize that school districts treat contracts and administrative law like toilet paper and frequently violate them. That's why teachers MUST have attorneys on retainer to fight school districts. It is nearly impossible for terminated teachers to find attorneys willing to take their cases once dumped.

Make sure if you are in a protected class you have access to EEOC. DON'T count on your union or your union lawyers to tell you about it. They will often not tell you one word about it. Without access to EEOC and getting that notice of the right to sue, finding a lawyer to sue a school district in federal court is impossible.

If you are terminated and you haven't committed any real criminal violation or serious ethical breach where a school district can fight it, apply for unemployment insurance. Many union officials will lie to you about your eligibility and say you aren't eligible when in fact you are.

Teacher "unions" are largely ineffective (thanks to most states outlawing teachers' right to strike) and are often in cahoots with school districts when teachers are targeted for removal.

The principal is NOT your friend. EVER. Brand that on your forehead. Your principal may be a "good one," but that "good one" would just as soon throw you under the bus as keep you on if his or her career is on the line.

A principal's principal job is self-preservation at all costs. Same is true with higher-level administrators.

The principal has total power over your career and you have no power at all as a teacher. Brand that on your forehead. Principals also suffer few consequences for their actions because they aren't closely supervised.

In many areas of the country, principals belong to unions and have the right to collective bargaining, something that should be illegal because they are management. This is one of the major reasons why principals are nearly impossible to fire, unlike teachers, and why there is such a power imbalance between teachers and principals.

By all means document the actions of a principal who is trying to railroad you out of a career, but remember school district administrators can fabricate charges. When you are terminated or "dismissed" by a principal, you are allowed only to get your immediate possessions and are not allowed to return to district property until the district seizes your computer and any other documentation they can destroy or twist "evidence" to use against you in the sham "due process" hearings.

Few teachers opt for "due process hearings," thinking that by resigning in lieu of dismissal and taking a severance package (called a "settlement" in school district jargon), this will help them in future jobs. Not true. Virtually all school district applications ask if you have ever been let go for any reason at all or no reason, and if you answer "yes," your application is thrown into the trash. This is a form of blackballing teachers so they never work in the field again. The application question typically goes like this: "Have you ever been non-renewed, dismissed, forced to resign, resigned in lieu of dismissal, or left before the end of your contracted term?" The only reason it is asked is to screen you out of a teaching job. Lie on that question and if you are found out, your license is sanctioned; tell the truth and your application is thrown into the garbage can. It is a rare principal, indeed, who will hire a teacher despite having the scarlet letter of "D"--dumped--branded on his or her forehead.

A "non-renewal" apart from a RIF or a layoff from a temporary assignment is a firing. Get used to it because that is what it is. "Non-renewed" teachers face an uphill battle in the job market because of this. Once again teachers can be easily fired.

People often overstate license actions against teachers apart from teachers breaching contracts. Typically only the most egregious actions such as criminal convictions result in license revocations. Some states will take action on more petty allegations, like Oregon, which they shouldn't do. Realize that any license sanction is basically the end of your teaching career in any public school district in the United States.

All licensed teachers have their names and their licenses in a nationwide database which is available to school districts around the country, not to mention many states have their own databases for school districts and the public to see, so it is pointless to lie on a job application about sanctions on your teaching license.

School districts frequently violate FMLA, so make sure that if you have to use it you have access to an outside attorney.

School district attorneys can and do fabricate evidence against teachers in the sham "due process" hearings. They can also coerce colleagues to lie under oath, bribe witnesses that would be in your favor as a teacher so their administrators can keep their jobs. All kinds of actions that would get attorneys disbarred in regular legal actions are allowed in administrative proceedings.

School districts operate above the law.

Arbitrators and panels can be in cahoots with school districts and therefore it is an uphill battle for a teacher to "win" an administrative hearing.

Even if a teacher "wins" an administrative hearing, he or she will have a target on his or her back for the remainder of the time that teacher remains with a school district.

There is NO such thing as "academic freedom" as a K-12 teacher. You can't just say or do anything. You MUST follow "directives," even if they are illegal or stupid or face ruination of your career. Teachers, like children, are to be seen and not heard.

Just because a teacher has been fired doesn't mean he or she deserved it. All it takes for a teacher to have his or her career ruined is refuse to carry out an illegal directive by a principal or refuse to change a grade.

Never trust colleagues. They are not your friends and can be coerced to lie by school districts in order to have you removed as a teacher.

Principals can ruin your chances for another teaching job through poor references. School districts can label you as a "do not rehire" which in effect blackballs you although some districts have been sued over this designation.

Perhaps someday I will write that book.

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