Monday, May 14, 2007

The teacher purge updated

We had eleven teachers get notices that they won't be back next year due to funding issues. PSS is apparently under a directive to cut fifteen percent of its payroll. Some schools are slightly overstaffed relative to others, so this doesn't seem to be designed in a fair or completely sensible way. I saw one faculty member in tears -- not just a sniffle, either -- tears. She will be replaced by someone to do the job cheaper. I can't really say more on that one without identifying people, which I don't want to do. One of these people deserved it in the sense that they had a ridiculous class with few students, and not much was done in that class. He is a nice guy, just not really appropriate as a high school teacher.

Seven, I believe, were non-HQTs meaning they had not completed Praxis -- at least at the high school level. Some had passed the Elementary Education Praxis and will be transferring. I've heard that some have found jobs elsewhere. My sense is that they were all good teachers with the one exception. Incidentally, there is more to HQT than Praxis. Certain education courses are required as is CNMI history and cultural seminar, but there is a singular focus on Praxis. Many others are not HQT if factoring in those things. I think Praxis is a good thing in that I think there have been a fair number of teachers without the intellectual capacity to be in those kinds of jobs. Few of my peers agree with me on this, but I have kids in the schools, and I frankly wouldn't want my children in class with someone who can't pass the Praxis. Praxis isn't a measure of how good a teacher is at teaching, but it measures knowledge of the subject, and it is very hard to teach what you don't know. Measuring communicative ability is much harder.

These school cuts are really a factor of the community and the legislature being unwilling to financially support the schools. Today I was asked to donate money to put gas in the school's bush cutter. I'm not doing that on general principle. It isn't my job to fund school operations. The chickens are really coming home to roost after years of piss poor management, ridiculous invented jobs, spending on nonsense and lack of will to institute any real taxes.

For next year, I'm not quite sure what will happen with all those students in all those classes. Most classes are packed with 30 plus students. Thirty is far too many students for a language arts classes and others. This is the first year, and the last I'm sure, with a preparation period, something that is helpful for you know, preparing. A teacher's job isn't just the time with students, there are papers to correct, assignments to evaluate and lessons to plan, not to mention clubs and activities to supervise. There are constant adjustments that need to be made to help students progress in their intellectual development. The net result for next year will be more students, more classes, more babysitting, less teaching, less one on one interaction with students, and fewer labor intensive projects like term papers. I talked to one teacher who has gone from three formal papers per quarter to one. I've pretty much done the same.

Through the years I've watched teachers sit idly by and say little about the system. They also seldom get asked, and if they are asked, are ignored. Ambrose Bennett was elected teacher representative three years ago when hardly anyone voted and there was no campaign. He has tried to do certain things, most of them good, but many teachers had issues with him personally and offered minimal support. I don't even know what he is doing up there anymore. He used to report on board happenings, but I've heard nothing for a long time. ACT tried to reform last August, and that went nowhere with indifference and infighting. There is another reformation right now that looks much more promising. Teachers never got together, and now there is no one to fight for them when they need it. The tenure proposal was pushed aside to argue about the Praxis issue.

The local culture here is to stay quiet for fear of your job. Among Filipinos, that factor is amplified. Teachers from the states come and go, so while they are more willing to take a stand, they are also more likely to come and go in short order. I had about 10 mainland teacher colleagues come and go in the last four years. Teachers should have enormous political influence due to their numbers, but have none for the reasons I just described. The net result is what is going on now. Teachers are being played with as this debate about not opening school until October rages. Teachers will have more students, no preparation time, probably less pay and more urging to shut up and deal with their overcrowded, lousy facilities with minimal support. This is not an equal issue at all schools. The newer schools have better facilities, and some schools are more overcrowded than others. There is really a divergence in issues from school to school.

Today was a depressing day on the job, and I expect many more depressing days. I expect next school year will be my last.


Antigone said...

i don't get it, garrison just stole a recruit out from under us for southern from the mainland. one of the many people ramon and charley got to apply while at job fairs last month. will these teachers be replaced by new hires fresh out of college? we're filling vacant positions at hopwood.

Jeffrey C. Turbitt said...

They still need teachers for some subjects like PE.

Brad said...

I just sent an email to the CNMI PSS about vacant teaching positions. This posting doesn't fill me with hope. I really want to teach in Saipan but it sounds like jobs are going to be really hard to get..if not impossible.