Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A teacher says goodbye to New Orleans

The Recovery School District in New Orleans has lost yet another dedicated teacher in its ongoing work in progress towards improvement in public education. This teacher took a chance and hoped that she could make a difference. She contacted officials in New Orleans and alerted them that she was available and willing to leave her home on a long term basis in order to apply for a position with them. After months of the application process in which her certifications were checked, she made several trips back and forth to the city at great expense. Finally, in July she was told to report to work by the middle of the next week. She started off the school year with promise in her heart. In the end she found the system so broken down that there was little doubt she could accomplish very much and it became increasingly clear that conditions would never improve. As to discipline in the classroom, a few of the children were entirely out of control. Many had never attended pre-schools and lacked the most basic tools in learning. In some cases they lacked proper skills and manners such as how to properly hold a fork at mealtime or a pencil in the classroom. The children and the teachers were forced to endure impossible hours. Paul Vallas, the superintendent of the Recovery School District, implemented a school schedule that stretched from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. School teachers found precious little time for bathroom breaks during the day and the only downtime seemed to be during lunch. The conditions endured by faculty and students alike throughout the school day were nothing less than horrid. Like others in the Recovery School District, this teacher spent many of her own dollars on school supplies that should have been provided by the Recovery School District such as paper or pens. What became unimaginable and eventually intolerable for this teacher was the sad fact that the education of many of the students in her elementary classroom was being hijacked by the one or two who acted out throughout the day. If they were incapable of understanding the work or were bored, all they had to do was act outlandish or threaten other students. Their behavior would bring about the total disruption in the classroom and the teacher would have to stop instruction in order to attend to the behavioral problems of the one or the few. It was a way for these students to "dumb down" the educational process, guaranteeing that all would eventually fail in the wake of their disruptions. Sadly, this teacher who had big hopes for making a difference in the lives of Hurricane Katrina affected youngsters is preparing to go back from whence she came, a drive of well over a thousand miles and several states away. So goes the hopes of one teacher who wanted to make a difference. How sad for her and how sad for the Recovery School District.

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