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I was also not receiving any support from the principal or from three of the four assistant principals. Instead of providing an assistant coach to help with my extracurricular duties as they promised when hiring me, they berated me for even asking. Throughout the year, veteran teachers told me to get out while I could. I contemplated giving up, but I couldn't. I had found such a special opportunity to affect young people's lives. I vowed that I'd give it another shot in a school where the administration was supportive.
So I moved from Charleston to Charlotte and found a job with Myers Park High. I don't have enough nice things to say about Dr. Bill Anderson and his administrative staff. When I had a student who was prohibiting the rest of the class from learning, she was removed. When I had a concern, the principal handled the matter firmly but treated me with understanding and respect.
Unlike South Carolina, North Carolina schools aren't allowed to force extracurricular duties on new teachers, so I had much more time this school year to develop my lessons.
Still, just like everywhere, as a new teacher I was handed the class that no one wanted to teach. And just like everywhere, many experienced teachers were simply not there to help. Some didn't care. Others were angry. Think about it. They've been working at a job for 20-plus years, and aside from a trivial pay increase, they're no more important or powerful than the new face that comes traipsing down the hall.
Resources and facilities were just as limited. I never had a personal computer to use. I sometimes had to purchase my own paper to make needed handouts or tests. I rarely had enough class sets of novels in good condition. Heck, I didn't even have a classroom of my own. I thought it was bad when I was given a trailer in Charleston. Imagine being given a cart to push around all day. Now imagine what happens when it rains.
I also still had to battle the issue of never having enough time, which CMS worsened by taking away teacher workdays instead of forgiving some of the ice storm days. And the teacher in-services that were held at the beginning of the year were times of thumb twiddling, monotone lecturing, and impractical information.
Even though I still taught some special students this year and formed some lasting memories, I decided to heed the advice of older teachers and my instinct. I would walk down the hall, pushing my cart, looking into the faces of women and men who had been teaching for most of their adult lives. Nine times out of 10, I didn't see a trace of excitement or enthusiasm. I just saw weary, downtrodden, disillusioned expressions. I was determined to not become one of them.
So now I'm job hunting. And I'm no fool; I know there will be downsides to any job. I'm just not willing to remain in a profession that doesn't treat its workers as just that -- professionals. And the point is, I'm just one of thousands nationwide in this epidemic of teachers fleeing the classroom.
Even if Dr. Pughsley chooses to ignore what his former employees have said in his quest for 10 percent turnover, there can at least be hope that he'll interview the unwitting flock of sheep he's leading to the slaughter this fall when the majority of them decide to head for greener pastures next summer.
Note: The 2002-2003 Annual Teacher Turnover Report will go to the State Board of Education in September and will be available shortly thereafter at http://www.ncpublicschools.org/recruit/.
CMS Plans for Teacher Retention
Estimated Cost: $2,763,728 (not including two strategies that are to be determined)
Issue 1: Overall turnover rate is higher than the state average and needs to be reduced.
Proposed strategy 1: Ongoing training and support for principals and assistant principals for retention purposes through Administrative Leadership Program. Cost: N/A
Proposed strategy 2: Conduct reliable survey of teachers to determine motivators to remain with CMS. Cost: $12,800
Proposed strategy 3: Continue and refine three-year induction program to enhance teachers' instructional and student management skills and competencies. Cost: N/A
Proposed strategy 4: Provide Employee Wellness Program and Wellness Fair. Cost: $9,700
Proposed strategy 5: Replicate Regional Superintendent meetings with new teachers used previously in Region B. Cost: N/A.