Ten years ago as an undergraduate elementary education student at UIC, no one could have ever told me that I would leave Chicago Public Schools.
There are five major factors that pushed me to transition out of CPS and into another school district.
- CONSISTENCY. In my short six years at CPS, I had the pleasure of working under four CEOs. Almost every year and a half, there were new procedures, policies and shifts in the district. How can a district move forward when the vision changes with the seasons?
- ACCOUNTABILITY & STABILITY. I had been cut (displaced, rifted) two times out of six years and there is NO ONE who verifies these decisions made by principals. At my first school, I was cut while five teacher’s aides remained unscathed and then later non-renewed only to have the cited reasoning to be “pedagogical differences.” How do you expect to build morale and recruit excited teachers if there aren’t any checks and balances?
- SUBJECTIVITY. I was fortunate enough to begin at a new school when the Danielson framework was implemented for our evaluations. However, there are two big loopholes to the evaluations to which many were not privy. The first is that you could never grieve your evaluation itself. You were only allowed to grieve if the timeline was not followed. The second loophole comes from CPS’ attempt to hold evaluators accountable. Principals and assistant principals try to mirror each other’s scores even when they know that they are unfair. This practice takes the objectivity out of our evaluations and turns them into a numbers game. How can I become a better educator without the unbiased feedback?
- LACK OF SUPPORT. Every teacher can attest to not feeling supported by leadership when dealing with tough student behavior. Nevertheless, when I witnessed a parent barge into the main office after school, curse a teacher out while the principal stood there, I knew that I could not remain at CPS. The principal sets the tone for the school. His actions confirmed that I could be attacked and he would be a bystander. How can I set high expectations of respect for students if the principal doesn’t embody the standard?
- ABUSE. No, I’m not referring to physical abuse. I am speaking about the verbal and emotional abuse from leadership. I was so tired of being spoken to like I wasn’t a professional. Principals would disparage you in front of students and parents all of the time. They consider any of your inquiries as a challenge of their authority. I even experienced a principal trying to force us to resign during a staff meeting. How can you wake up each morning and give your best to your students when the abusive environment makes you have panic attacks?
As I write this, I am deeply saddened. I NEVER wanted to leave CPS. I just knew I would retire from CPS. I miss working with mostly black and brown students. People often ask me if CPS were to change, would I go back. My response is always, “If I could go back and teach without all of the other factors, then I would. I just want to teach.
*The author has chosen to remain anonymous.