17

A new teacher … again

Dan Adiletta, a first-year teacher at Explore Middle School — which is closing at the end of the year — is leaving Oakland. He tells us why. -Katy

Dan Adiletta, Explore Middle School teacherGoodbye, Oakland.

I stand up to and for your students and see to their learning with all the energy I can muster. I manage to stretch paycheck to paycheck while providing many of my own class supplies. I shoulder stress and come back for more. But despite having managed to drag myself this far, I’m being put into the very category I’ve struggled to avoid: the one-year teacher.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was placed (by a now-disbanded program) on a temporary contract, despite being told I was a one-year probationary teacher. Wouldn’t you know, I found myself in a school that is being closed. So my position and my contract are set to expire, and I am not invited to enter the priority placement process. My calls and e-mails to principals at other schools have gone unanswered. Employment in OUSD seems closed until at least the end of summer. But I simply cannot take that gamble. I’ve got to move.

Oakland’s situation is grim. Personally, I haven’t seen a shortage in talent and commitment—just the opposite. What needs to happen is a process of dramatic changes to the system. When reform eventually comes, I hope these posts demonstrate the benefit of simpler, more personal support for new teachers. To that end, I want to draw attention to a troubling announcement.

The OUSD history department has done amazing work with minuscule resources to develop an assessment program built around primary-source documents. In the absence of another seventh and eighth grade history teacher at my school, it has done so much to shape my instruction. The type of materials that have been developed are academically rigorous and have huge potential in the way we evaluate student learning.

The program is closing until funding returns.

I will not stop fighting the achievement gap. I am more determined of that than when I first started. I will be losing my spot on the front lines of this struggle. There is a rare position at a private school in Connecticut that could really help intensify the rigor of my instruction. Unburdened by the heartbreak that comes with my current position, I will be creative in the nonprofit sector and find a way to keep contributing.

I am angry at the guilt I have in going — it was not my choice to leave.

dadiletta

  • harold

    keep your head up Dan. You will be a success back east! Thank you for serving the children of Oakland!!

  • http://www.tigerthegecko.blogpost.com maestra

    I really wish OUSD did exit interviews. I think Tony Smith could learn a lot about what needs to be changed.

  • Katy Murphy

    Dan,

    If you were given an exit interview (I like Maestra’s suggestion), what would you say? You mentioned the need for dramatic, systemic changes. Which ones would be at the top of your list?

  • Oakland Educator

    The temporary contract issue sounds more like a standard OUSD bureaucratic error than an irreversible problem, although there is much overlap between the two… Many of the alternate-route teachers “accidentally” (or not) get temporary contracts instead of probationary ones, but HR generally fixes this when notified. If it really just comes down to the contract, you should be able to fight this if you have any OCTC written materials indicating you should have been probationary. OCTC doesn’t need to exist for you to continue; all of those programs are about on-boarding more than anything.

    It sounds like this is all after the fact, and you already have a new plan lined up. However, because you’re not the first person to get the wrong contract, which has huge implications, you might see what dust you stir up if you make a fuss with HR.

    Good luck in your new position. There seems to be a mass exodus this year, even more than usual–a combination of job-seeking, punitive non-reelects, and cutting temporary teachers.

  • J.R.

    Another good young teacher gone thanks in part to archaic rules of “seniority” and “tenure”. We are in dire need to keep the “best” teachers, and not just somebody with a pulse who has been here for a long time. If we can grade student performance we can also grade teacher performance. It is happening all over the country because the NEA and the CTA encourage protection of “all” the teachers even the ones who are deficient. Things will not change until the parents and taxpayers step up(such as SB955)which is only the beginning.

  • http://www.tigerthegecko.blogpost.com maestra

    There’s *always* a mass exodus. In my sixth year of teaching, my colleagues and I compiled a list of all the teachers we had lost (granted, it was one of the elementary schools in in one of the violent areas of Oakland), and it was over 100. OVER 100 TEACHERS HAD LEFT IN SIX YEARS. Oh, and six principals.

    I really do think that exit interviews are the way to start. OUSD always has issues trying to find the problem – why not ask people why they leave?

    I have a whole blog about it. :)

  • Oakland Educator

    J.R.: This isn’t a seniority/tenure issue. A temporary contract is such that even if you’ve taught on one for 17 years, the district can decline your services at any time, even long after the March 15th deadline for non-reelects.

    OUSD is a combination of actual chaos and calculated bureaucracy (you literally can’t get there from here), so I think they purposefully mix up the temporary and probationary contracts sometimes. It happens too often to be an accident, even in OUSD. That’s why I think he should appeal if he has anything in writing stating that OCTC hired on probationary contracts.

  • http://alwaysformative.blogspot.com Jason Buell

    As has been said, keep your head up. If you’re willing to commute to San Jose we’re interviewing for 8th history this summer. It’s closer than Connecticut.

  • J.R.

    Oak Ed,
    As I said, this is another young teacher lost “that is the issue” , and it happens too frequently because “tenure, seniority, and cronyism” are baked into this crooked(thanks a lot unions)system that we have now.

  • Lara

    Best of luck, Dan. I think it’s too bad that we teachers often feel shame or embarrassment about leaving one group of kids for another. They all need our help. I hope your new school will give you the support to be even more effective in your teaching.

    Thanks for pointing out that OUSD’s late hiring shrinks the applicant pool. My job at an OUSD school wasn’t advertised until late summer, and I was hired a few weeks before school began (several years ago). I had turned down offers from other districts because I wanted to teach in Oakland, but it was awfully stressful to have to wait so long to learn whether I’d have a job at all! Many friends from my credentialing program, though, accepted jobs elsewhere because they needed certainty of upcoming employment, which Oakland wasn’t offering until August.

  • Nextset

    I think Dan’s reaction to what is happening at OUSD is muddled by a mistaken belief that people care. He assumes that the OUSD students are considered valued.

    Perhaps when he gets to a real school he will learn the difference.

    I’m being the skunk at the garden party I know. But people really have to get real.

    I wish things were different, but they are what they are.

    Good bye and Good Luck in your new location and position. While you were here you made a difference and an impression on the students I’m sure. You are the kind of teacher OUSD can’t afford to have.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Dan, on the one hand, I totally feel for you and am sorry to see you go. If you weren’t already, I’m sure you have the potential to be great, if the thoughtfulness of your posts is any indication.

    That said, dealing with ridiculous bureaucracy and the fact that, as Nextset points out, the larger society doesn’t care much, is PART AND PARCEL of the gig.

    In other words, the system weeds folks out who can’t take a whole bunch of crap — being treated like a widget, yanked around when programs die abruptly and others pop up randomly like mushrooms after the rain.

    J.R. says it’s the union’s fault, others would blame the district. I blame the whole state for lacking the will to face the reality of what poverty and dysfunction cost us in the long run and the big picture.

    Regardless, if you want to continue teaching in an urban or rural public school, you can do so. Even in Oakland. Go on unemployment now, crash with friends, and catch on in late August, when everybody is desperate to fill classes. Or fight the prop status, as others have noted.

    I don’t judge you for taking the easier path at a private school. I don’t think anybody should do this out of guilt, although I suppose we all want to “make a difference” which can be a muddy soup sometimes.

    However, it is like a weeder course in college to see who REALLY wants to put up with the crap it takes to be a chemistry or physics student.

    You just got weeded. Unfortunately, our current weeding program eliminates some of the most nutritious plants!

  • Oakland Teacher

    Cranky – thanks for being willing to put so much thought into your posting above.

    I have always said that teaching is the one profession where people are expected to stay: both the school year and beyond. In other jobs, people wish you well when you move on.

    But you are right about OUSD weeding out people. We do it with our lousy HR dept; we do it with our temporary contracts. We also do it with our tough working conditions and our lousy pay that is lower than other districts. OUSD is the “culling” place; we end up with only the most dedicated/crazy or worst teachers staying. I put myself in the dedicated/crazy pile. Those that get weeded out usually go on to better places/higher pay/easier work.

    I was so excited when Dan began posting before he even came to Oakland. I was so hopeful that he would stay and become one of those most amazing History teachers that we have in many OUSD schools. It takes nerves of steel to be an Oakland parent or teacher, and many people do not have that constitution, nor should we expect them to. I remember when I finished my credential program, one of my classmates wanted to work in Oakland, the city in which he lives. He was highly qualified in a shortage area, and even bilingual. He could not get a phone call back from HR, so he went to Hayward, who hired him instantly on the spot at higher pay.

    I am so sad for the loss that our students have year after year, the loss of great teachers and teachers to be: both those who stay only briefly and those that never get a call back from HR.

    Good-bye Dan. Thank you for at least lasting the year.

  • Ms. J.

    Yeah, Dan, don’t feel guilty. I admire you for your reflectiveness and your eagerness to do good work, and I’m sure you will learn a lot in your new position. Who knows, in a few years you may end up in a situation of teaching in a public school again, after learning new skills in a private school. I understand your angst over this, and also the temptation to feel guilty, but I hope you won’t waste much energy on that.

    I, too, find the bureaucracy of OUSD infuriating, and it incenses me that the people who want to work here are treated so disrespectfully, so often, by the folks downtown. A few years ago the families of two of my hardworking colleagues were sent letters by the district informing the families that these teachers were not ‘highly qualified.’ Of course ‘highly qualified’ does not even mean that, it just means that a teacher has certain bits of paper, but the most outrageous things about this were that a)the two teachers did have those bits of paper and b) the district didn’t even have the courtesy to tell the teachers that these letters were being sent–they found out from the families! Meanwhile, in a great ironic twist, one of those teachers is now a finalist for Oakland Teacher of the Year!

    OUSD definitely loses more teachers than it would were the HR department more competent, no matter the stresses and challenges at school sites.

    On another note–I have stopped reading this blog so frequently as I’d like, because it makes me so irritated to read some of the repetitive, unhelpful, and negative comments of some of the frequent posters. I love to learn from the reflections of posters such as Cranky Teacher and Nextset, and I don’t mind if someone says something that I don’t agree with, but I struggle not to feel angry when I see some people take every SINGLE piece of news as an opportunity to bash teachers. Seriously, could you think before you post?

  • dadiletta

    The education that my students receive is substandard. Even if I worked a hundred times harder it would still be that way. Nevertheless, I feel the failure and it’s terrible. But the warm responses this community offers does so much to relieve that stress. Thank you!

    Katy, to answer your question, I’d first want a total re-think of educational funding. Teachers, unions, administration, parents, the district and the state all have opposing financial incentives that create such adversarial relationships. Green as I was, I had no idea that I needed to distrust the district as was subsequently taken for the proverbial ride.

    But more immediately and within my pay-grade, I’d like to see a mandatory mentoring program established where teachers are paired with someone that currently teaches the same content. Their collaborative lessons should be added to an easy, online database that stores lessons organized by standard, (thus we can start preserving some of this rapidly lost institutional wisdom). Also, teachers’ prep periods should be uninterrupted at all costs and shouldn’t ever be scheduled after school. Similarly, lunch breaks that last more than 30 minutes would do miracles for stress recovery. I think those changes would be the low-hanging fruit of reform.

    Thanks again!

  • http://www.tigerthegecko.blogpost.com maestra

    To add to how OUSD weeds people out -

    HR losing everything that is turned in

    It should not be so hard to apply for a job and if it is, most people who are good (who aren’t married to the idea of working in Oakland) will not put up with it.

  • gee yu

    hey your still young now you know how the ed world works so next time you’ll really look at what your signing and not believe what your told