Friday, August 04, 2006


Not only do we get to know the students well through our model of small learning communities but fortunately we get to know the teachers just as well.

This is “Year Four” of the Queens High School of Teaching. When I first arrived here ( Year Two) I immediately thought to myself, “Wow!... I’m lucky I got onto the staff when I did, why would anyone leave this teaching environment?”

Now that Y4 is dawning my original contention has not changed. I do recognize our school is not for everyone. Some students will be overwhelmed by the expectations of cooperative group work placed upon them when they cross the threshold of our institution. Some parents will undoubtedly be overwhelmed by the unparalleled desire to maintain mixed abilities cohort classes within a set small learning community. I can sympathize with the struggle new students and their parents must face with these breaks from tradition. What perplexes me is the need for teachers/ counselors to move on.

Granted our school expects much from its staff. There is a sense of a developing professional culture mandated, not from the administration, but from our own colleagues that seems to pervade conversations throughout the building. Because of this “professional culture” there is not much “downtime” between August 7th and June 28th.

Are teachers leaving for greener pastures?

Do suburban schools offer the same opportunities to make revolutionary changes in society?

Are traditionally formatted schools such a draw for professional reflective teachers?

The colleagues that have decided to move on are teachers. They are good teachers. If they terminated their time with us and left the profession a void in the world of education would have to be refilled.

Reflecting on their departures from my small learning community, I am internally struggling with what we (as a professional community) could have done to retain these colleagues and their expertise? How are we (our SLC) going to grow from this experience?

Could communication during SLC’s be improved by sticking to set protocols?

Should sharing of positive experiences we have had here during our school experience be more public and verbal rather than just share electronically at the end of the week? Should more attention be paid to the “Nay Sayers” and steps taken to help these struggling colleagues?

I imagine loosing a tooth for a child is a traumatic experience. A child never thinks they will not have the teeth they have come to depend on, the teeth that aided in nourishment through infancy and their toddler years. When I tooth falls out there is a hole left behind, there is some pain and there may even be some blood. It is definitely awkward. In time the tooth is replaced and new teeth emerge to fulfill the functions of the missing dental teammates.

I look foward to meeting the new teachers that will fill the holes on our teams.

My mom always said, “Take care of your teeth and they will take care of you.” I hope we as a community remember proper dental care and care for eachother.

Total Teachers can only exist in Total Schools.

P.S. Aren’t you glad I did not extend the metaphor any further and start talking about pulling teeth, oral surgery, caps, or braces? and what about those gold covered teeth with stars or dollar signs?


goddess said...

In Richard Florida's "The Rise of the Creative Class" Florida outlines the changes in society. People today just aren't job loyal. Our parents and grandparents often worked one career and often one job for the majority of their life. Today's work force changes not only jobs, but careers often. He says "Instead of communities defined by close associations and deep commitments to family, friends and organizaitons, we seek places where we can make friends and acquaintances easily and live quasi-anonymous lives." (hey, did I do that?) In short, don't blame yourself. It's a cultural trend.

goddess said...

hi, me again... so I was thinking. I know it almost gave me a headache, but I was thinking that you must have a very good administration. I personally don't like micromanagers. I think the good "bosses" of the world hire a staff they are confident in and let them do their job. That's what I like about the principal I work with now, but man there are a lot who micromanage a school out of a staff.

Ms. Feliciano said...

Is loyality really the issue here??

I taught humanities at a small high school in the Lower East Side for one year; I was really excited about this school. I heard nothing but great things about the staff, administration and students. I was also thrilled to hear that the school had a partnership with the university I attended. Much to my disappointment, I soon realized that the school just wasn't for me; I struggled trying to balance both the English curriculum with Global Studies, a subject I never before taught. I was a good teacher, but I was unhappy. Nine months after I started teaching at this school, I was given the opportunity to interview for QHST. I was thrilled when I was offered the English position, yet I knew I had a hard decision to make: what would my current principal and colleagues think of me "jumping ship" after only one year? Would this be career suicide?

On the contrary, my principal and colleagues were very understanding. Despite her disappointment in losing me, my principal acknowledged that I seemed too stressed having to teach both English and Social Studies and that the last thing she would ever do is hold on to a teacher who is not 100% happy to be in her school.

I know that there are teachers out there who lack loyality and committment. But then there are those who realize that their schools conflict with their personal teaching philosohpy and style, or they are tired of not being recognized or appreciated for all the hard work they've done, or they are not given the support needed to help perfect their craft. There are many reasons why teachers choose to leave their schools. Some are offered better opportunities that are too good to pass up; others leave because, despite trying to give it their all, they are just plain unhappy.

QHST is not for everyone; we know this because we are highly selective in who we hire to teach in our school. Should we rush to judgement and say that teachers who choose to leave our school lack loyality? I don't think so. For those of us (and there are many out there) who have taught in more than school, think about the reasons why YOU left your former school(s). Do you really think that your reasons for leaving are any different from those teachers who are leaving QHST?

Anonymous said...

I think this is a case of, 'it's not you, it's me.'

Cultural trend or not, I'm not sure Florida's analysis applies here. It's not like these teachers weren't already living in a 'trendy city' - where did they flee to, Amsterdam, Prague or Sao Paolo?

Anonymous said...

If overanalyzing were a crime, you should be jailed for life at this point!!
There are more than enough capable teachers out there to fill the vacancies....I think everything will work out. I usually does.

Anonymous said...

Usually when people decide to leave a job they are doing it for their own best interest whether it is for an increase in pay, closer to home, or the school didn't suit them. While it is a good idea to reflect and evaluate the time with us and to think about how we could have made them stay and if we gave enough support, our colleagues are adults and make adult decisions. Teaching needs a 100% commitment and when a teacher is unhappy and cannot deal with the school they are in then it is time to go. They do not do us a favor by staying on, not the administration, not the students and especially not themselves.

fswetten said...

Just because one doesn't always agree with all the philosophies of the school that doesn't make them a "nay sayer" it make them a thniker in my book. I wouldn't over analyze why people leave this school. No one can predict the future. I wish those that left well and welcome all the new people. I expect more people will leave in the future, not because we aren't a good school, but because sometimes the fit just isn't right.