This letter was submitted via our open letter form. It does not necessarily reflect the views of Dear JCPS.
I would like to tell you a little about myself and my personal experiences as a child, adult, and educator. I am sure you have heard that we should not decrease the expectations of the Code of Conduct and teacher pay. I am going to tell you why, regardless of what the “data” says, what actual experiences look like. Figures never lie, but liars figure data.
(Excuse structure and grammar, I am writing from the heart.)
A child of poverty, but I didn’t know at the time.
My parents worked very hard for me to not know this; I thought they were being mean when I couldn’t have what my friends had. However, they lived by a very strict budget and by the time I was in college they had saved enough to help me through school. I was lucky enough to have KEES money, two jobs, and hard work instilled to get me through college.
I attended JCPS because my parents couldn’t afford private school. I received a wonderful education and abided by strict rules and expectations. I was ready for college. I was prepared for the real world. There was 0 tolerance. Students were not able to drink, do drugs, fight, harass others, bully, etc. and stay in a traditional school setting.
I obtained an Economics degree from UofL and in one class the professor taught us about how student vouchers, ideas similar to Charter Schools, would be better economically and I bought in. He was my professor, why would I question his knowledge?
Now, years later, being an educator, I know exactly why the research and data lied and that it was, in fact, not the better option. There were too many extraneous factors he didn’t consider as an economist about serving students in a public school system.
I worked in business for five years and had very clear expectations from my bosses. They told me what was expected. I followed their leadership and thrived. However, I missed working with kids. I had always babysat, lifeguarded, etc. and I had always thought about teaching. I decided to go back from my Masters in Teaching.
Little did I know, expectations for me would never be clear again. I will forever question what my principal wants because for some reason…they have been taught, “Don’t tell them what you want, make them think it was their idea.” I can never get a straight expectation. I have never received a straight expectation unless it was in the form of a threat for my job.
In 2009, I inquired about alt cert. There was not a teacher shortage in JCPS and I could not do that. I was sad. How can I pay my bills and student teach? I worked hard and found a way.
I did a practicum and student taught at a PLA school, shortly after the principal hired me sans interview. I cried because I didn’t want to work at a PLA school, it was not what I wanted but I knew to reach my goal I would.
I worked at a PLA school through ups and downs, culture I didn’t understand but learned to be a part of, my mental stability was challenged, my personal relationships to friends and marriage were challenged because of working in such a tough environment. It affected me personally because I cared and I couldn’t help it. I cried every day my first year, teachers I worked with divorced and called off engagements. Most I worked with were single, divorced, or in a same sex relationship. Odd statement? It seemed as if the principal had staffed to avoid employing teachers with families or planning to start families…
I helped students and I was okay in my first couple years because administration was able to enforce rules. The students began to thrive and everything was getting better! Even through administrative mind games and emotional abuse to all staff. It was worth it! The students were receiving help!
Then, the district said…oh no, no, no. You cannot “punish” the kids in such ways. So then, referrals were ripped up, support was taken away, students began to control the school. They were not being prepared for the real world. Why do rules or consequences have such a negative context in schools now? If we all didn’t have consequences to our actions, the entire world would be chaos. Schools in JCPS are becoming more and more chaotic every day.
I left the PLA School and according to my friends still there, all progress has regressed. Students are running the school. They are playing the mom against dad game with admin and teachers or teachers and parents.
To be specific, before I left:
A student THREW a chair across my room, came back and threatened me after I sent him out. The previous year, this would have been an automatic suspension. But the new AP was under scrutiny for their job, so the student was back the next day. Another student said, “How is he back and not is ISAP?” The student who threw the chair said, and I quote, “I am a black male and I know how to work it when it comes to the white female teachers. They can’t touch me.” To my benefit, I had been there several years and it was well-known that the students overall loved me and I supported them all. I was able to go tell AP word for word what happened and they trusted me and the student THEN received consequences. It should have never come to that. If I was a first year teacher, it would have never come to that…because I would have been forced to resign as the other “white female teacher” he had was forced to do. I was lucky. Isn’t that sad?
I also had a white male student try to fight a black pregnant female student in my class, walk out of school to their house with no consequences. When I questioned the AP, I was told “You will NOT question me. I follow the code of conduct!” I smiled and said, “I understand, but I was just under a different impression that we were responsible for student safety and last year this would have been an automatic suspension. My apologies for not understanding.” I left and understood there would be very little support there.
The same AP cut my legs from under me, so to say, by ripping up a referral I had written on a student. I don’t remember what that referral was for, but I remember being devastated that I did so much for the kids as support and when I wrote a referral it was because they were out of line to extremes. Which honestly, it should never get to extremes in hope of support.
I had another student disrupting class purposefully one day who I finally sent out. Another AP called me to their office later about the referral and asked me, “Why don’t I like said student?” I said, “I like her but she was disrupting and being deliberately disrespectful.” The conversation finally progressed into me stating, “I bought a book for this student’s college class with my own money and had it shipped to her address.” Why is it necessary to defend my actions as a professional and let the students manipulate us? The students need a mom and a dad, which I will get to later. However, they cannot be allowed to play teachers and administrators against each other like a mom and a dad. I was again, “lucky” that day to have a resource teacher in my room witness the whole situation and the resource teacher was well respected. She went and told AP, “I would have kicked her out well before teacher did. How dare you question teacher?” The same AP harassed me and did their best to make me feel insufficient. I am not sure why, but some admin seem power driven and not student driven. The same AP told another teacher in front of me, “I can help you transfer, but not everyone.” And gave me a sideways look. Maybe this seems petty, but these are the petty thing administrators are doing to teachers. Power-based behavior from the top?
Another administrator told me to, “Read my teacher handbook.” After I had been at a PLA school several years and my classes overlapped one year. I DARED to question AP about the bell schedule! In relation to that, AP told me in my final observation that I handled the overlapping bells very well and he/she was proud of that? I sat there thinking…” So, you knew the bells overlapped for some teachers and you chose NOT to fix it, when I gave a solution to altering bells?” I had to send out my one class into hall two minutes early on their schedule, have security watch them, and then bring in my next class three minutes late while security watched them prior?” What about the other teachers on opposite side of building? Did they happen to have security or did we just have students unaccounted for ten to fifteen minutes?
These are the stories you do not hear and won’t because teachers are scared. Administrators are scared because asst superintendents intimidate admin the same way the admin intimidate teachers, the same way the superintendent intimidates the asst superintendents. We are living in a fear-based environment where the teachers are only now speaking up because at this point, take away our raise, take away our ability to discipline…not much left for us before being forced to leave our jobs we want to do right because of working conditions in JCPS or be fired for speaking out.
So let’s speak out. The negatives outweigh the positives at this point because it is about the students. If we change the Code of Conduct all students and all teachers are in danger, real danger.
Students need clear lines and clear consequences. I am all about supporting students, however, support does NOT include taking away consequences. I know as a middle and high school student if I didn’t have consequences, I would have tried to get away with EVERYTHING whether it was at home or at school. And my personal experiences with students speak to this!
We all have possible consequences every day, late to work-could lose job, drive recklessly-ticket or wreck, don’t go to sleep-fall asleep at work, lose job, fall asleep at wheel-get in wreck, don’t take a shower-lose customers at work, don’t pay bills-electric or water turned off, lose apartment, foreclose on house, pay higher interest rates, have bad credit, can’t get a car to go to work, etc. Seems ridiculous, I know…But most importantly, break laws=possible jail time. By not providing consequences while students have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, we are not setting students up for success.
I went from a PLA school to a top performing JCPS school with HIGH behavior and academic expectations.
I was almost scared to believe administration would support me and enforce the rules. I saw firsthand being too lenient backfire! The students thrived in clear expectations and by me, implementing PBIS ish standards, they took advantage of me. They acted out in ways they never would. I improved in coming years and theses problems decreased. I still gave support, however, I upheld rules and school expectations and the students thrived!
The same students, in shock, have talked to me this week about how the relaxed code of conduct is “insane” in their own words. “We already act bad enough and we aren’t bad. Imagine if there were no consequences? Students would be cussing teachers in face, hitting them, doing all kinds of crazy every day?!” I looked at them and said, “You are lucky. This is already happening in other schools.”
Back to the mom and dad rhetoric…Students need disciplinarians in teachers and admins. They also need care from teachers and admin. If you hire correctly, this naturally happens. If admin and teachers ALL receive support and are treated as professionals, this NATURALLY happens. It’s OKAY that different teachers teach in different ways and have different classroom management styles! This is what creates a well-rounded student prepared for the real world. I get to be the mommy now with clear expectations; all of my students know there is a line. They must follow rules or consequences will be enforced. Yet, they know I genuinely care for each of them. They have “daddies” at the school as well, in the form of authoritarian administration and teachers. And guess what? Our school is prospering! Even though I still believe our school has diminished in recent years because of the lack of ability to enforce rules as they have in the past. Students will rise or fall to the expectations we give them.
I was a student of Louisville Male Traditional High School. I am a teacher of Louisville Male Traditional High School. I was a teacher at The Academy @ Shawnee. I cannot explain all of my personal experiences and I am sure from my letter it would be easy to find my identity. However, I am tired of being scared. I want to stand up for what is best for ALL students. From my experiences, ALL students thrive from clear, consistent behavior and academic expectations. The district is NOT supporting this with their policies. Education in JCPS is becoming about false numbers and perception! Do NOT do this to our kids! I agree that students should have access to support services, however, changing the code of conduct is not supportive to students’ safety or future. The Youth Service centers should be properly funded to provide these services. At the PLA school my first two years, the YSC was instrumental in the improvement across the school. Maybe the data didn’t show the vast improvement, but the environment and the students sure did-and this was while strict rules and consequences were put in place.
The traditional program is CLEAR data that rules work! We have students from all over the district, we do not pick and choose, we are a lottery. The ONLY common consistency is parents CARE and/or INVOLOVED! Imagine that, logical data. From real world experiences.