I know my blogs have mainly involved my life, but this time I feel a real need to express an opinion and defend teachers who seem to be under attack as of late. Please know that my point of view and thoughts on this actually come from having taught in public schools for 5 years and 1 year at a charter school.
Teachers and tenure are a good combination. Unfortunately, the general public has a general misconception on what is involved with tenure. They seem to be under the belief that once you get tenure, a school can never fire you or get rid of you in any way. This is simply NOT true!! Tenure is basically a measure that allows a teacher some job security from school year to school year.
Let me explain what it is often like for a non-tenured teacher. In my 6 years of teaching, I never reached tenure. I was close, but then I moved to a different district and therefore had to start all over again to establish tenure. So, I am quite well acquainted as to what it is like to teach without tenure. Many private school teachers are also in non-tenured positions and experience what I did. When you are working toward tenure, most school districts consider those employees annual contract teachers. What that means is that they decide if they are going to hire you again from year to year. Unlike most jobs that will only get rid of you if lay offs are needed or you are doing a poor job, an annual contract teacher could technically be told that they won’t be hired the next year for no reason at all. In fact, you could have a satisfactory to outstanding review on your performance evaluation, but not be hired back the next year.
I’ve worked in other jobs that didn’t have me on an annual contract where I knew I had a job the next day, week, month, etc. For a non-tenured teacher, he or she never knows for sure if she or he has a job until they are offered the position again. I hated the uncertainty of not knowing. I knew it could be a matter of a personality conflict that could lead me to lose my job. I wanted tenure so that if they let me go, it would have to be under a justified reason.
The biggest misconception is that once a teacher reaches tenure, they can’t be fired. Like I said before, this is completely untrue. A tenured teacher can be fired. If a bad teacher is on the faculty at a school and they have a job to this day, it is not the fault of tenure….it is the fault of administration. All tenure does is to guarantee teachers a job from school year to school year AND provide information on what would need to be done to terminate their employment. The tenure contract outlines what needs to happen and in what order to lay off teachers, even those who have tenure. It also outlines the steps that administration needs to take to terminate a teacher’s position for poor performance.
One of the most common steps you will find is if the teacher gets an unsatisfactory performance evaluation, what steps need to be taken in order to get the teacher back to satisfactory. The reasoning behind this makes perfect sense. As long as administration did their jobs right, the first time, by accurately evaluating teachers before they are given tenure, the teacher was probably a good teacher in the beginning. So the first effort the school and district will want to make is to see if they can get the teacher back on track. It may be a combination of requiring new training and extra evaluations/observations and even having them observe other teachers. If that still doesn’t work and the teacher is still doing a miserable job, the administrators are guided by the tenure contract as to what documentation is needed to fire them. It may take up to a school year or so, but it can happen.
Unfortunately, people really believe that bad teachers are out there because they got tenure and are allowed to stay. Instead, I blame administrators who are unwilling to either see what their teachers are doing wrong and/or are unwilling to go through the steps to get rid of a bad teacher.