Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I've Been Here Before

Today I got an email from a friend.

A paragraph read: “How is your work going? Why haven't you written a new blog since August 9th? Don't let that shit hole stop your momentum, woman.”

I feel I owe her, and myself, some kind of explanation.

I went back to work full-time. I started a week before my last published blog. I say "published" because a number of items sit in the draft box. But, back to our story. I’m a GED instructor for the city. I won’t care to mention the agency. I’ll just say it’s one that was in the headlines about a month ago for a lawsuit by the employees. Do your homework, folks.

The first couple of weeks were not bad. I was told to spend the first couple of weeks preparing lesson plans. Anyone who has taught adult education knows that it is foolish to start creating lesson plans until you meet and assess the needs of the students. I planned anyway, figuring I could stick to icebreaker activities, journal writing exercises, and looking through the limited materials. It was comfortable. I came in, sat at a desk, wrote plans, and looked at some student folders.

I have two supervisors. I have more contact with one than the other. I soon found that neither one of these supervisors has a background in either secondary, or primary education. The ironic thing is that the immediate supervisors title is "Education Analyst." There are three Education Analysts on staff. I would later find out that none of them have ever taught in a classroom, much less a GED class. I also realize that the goal of this city agency is to get clients off public assistance and into employment. The Education Analysts work with job developers and make contacts with possible employers for job placement. Apparently none of the Education Analysts or Job Developers know that the best shot of getting a job in this day and age is by obtaining a high school diploma. But what do I know? I’m just the teacher. These folks push work assignments and job placement so they can demonstrate a high rate of dropping folks off the welfare rolls and into jobs.

My only source of support was the previous instructor who would be teaching at another site. Eventually a third instructor would be hired. Each would prove to be extremely valuable in their preparation of materials, curricula, lesson plans and experience.

Things started to go downhill at about the third week or so. In the first month I had my schedule changed from teaching two sections to teaching three. The first group was a GED class. I was assigned to instruct 15-17 students in, not a classroom, but a conference room that seats 10 comfortably. There was no curriculum. I would create that. No math assessment had been done, so I had people in a GED class who should have been able to multiply but could not, and students in a pre-GED class who should have been able to subtract but had trouble.

I had my lunch cut to a half an hour, even though on my timecard I am told to write an hour. I was chewed out for taking a 15 minute break when my students took a break. I was told: "The students are on break, you are not on break." I was reprimanded for wearing jeans on a Friday. Then reprimanded for going to the cleaners during lunch to retrieve a pair of slacks to put on as show of good faith that I could follow the dress code. All of the chewing out happened on the same day.

I am not discouraged by any of this. I have a plan.

You’ll have to read the next entry to find out what it is.