Uploaded: Thu, Nov 4, 2010, 10:19 pm
Teacher says faculty is overworked
Bubb teacher says instructors are hard-pressed to cope with added duties, students
Increased class sizes, a longer school day, stacks of new paperwork and more special needs children -- accompanied by fewer dedicated aides -- are all adding up to be a burdensome equation for local elementary school instructors, according to a teachers' union official.
"We're trying to accomplish too many things in too short an amount of time," said Kathy Patterson, the Mountain View Educators Association representative for Benjamin Bubb Elementary School. "It's overwhelming."
Patterson, who teaches first grade at Bubb, said she has to work 60 hours a week to keep up with the Mountain View Whisman School District's requirements.
At a district board meeting on Oct. 21, Patterson addressed the Mountain View Whisman school board and administration, telling them that she and her colleagues are overworked. In a sign of support, teachers in the audience gave her a standing ovation, which lasted about a minute.
"I acknowledge that teachers are working very hard," Craig Goldman, the district superintendent, said. "That being said, our primary responsibility is to service children and ensure their success."
Ensuring the success of students in the district, he said, "is very hard work."
This year, in a cost-saving measure, kindergarten, first-, second- and third-grade teachers have seen their class sizes increase by an average of five students.
The new district-wide bell schedule, which was designed to streamline bus routes and cut down on traffic, means that Patterson's school day is now 15 minutes longer than it was last year.
Patterson was particularly critical of the school district's system for tracking classroom improvement, known as Plan, Do, Study, Act, or PDSA.
The new district system requires Patterson to identify a subject area in her curriculum that is in need of improvement at the beginning of each month, set an improvement goal, articulate that goal to district officials as well as students, and achieve the goal before each month's end. This, Patterson said, requires copious amounts of paperwork and takes away from time that could be spent on regular lesson plans.
On top of that, Patterson said, an increase in the number of special needs students in her classroom has proven to be a hurdle.
"It's very, very difficult," she said.
Patterson said she recognizes that there is room for improvement in her classroom and in district schools overall. She disagrees with the district's approach, however.
"We're trying to accomplish too many things in a short amount of time," Patterson said. "We're just feeling like we're scattered."
The solution, according to Patterson, is to "take a few things off the teacher's plate," and work on one goal over a longer period of time. "If we could have one big focus for everyone, it would really help everyone out."
Goldman acknowledged that the PDSA system is new and that perhaps some kinks could be worked out. However, Goldman believes it is important insofar as it helps the district achieve the educational markers set by the state. He said that PDSA is not unreasonable or fundamentally flawed in any way.
"I don't think that at a core level PDSA and instructional planning are inconsistent with what needs to happen to ensure quality instruction and successful outcomes for children," he said.
While Goldman acknowledges the challenges posed by special needs children being mainstreamed into regular classes, "I think the district is doing an excellent job with its special education operation. But we are always looking toward improving the quality of education for all of our children."
Posted by Nan R
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 11, 2010 at 1:27 pm
I am a special education Mom but luckily my special needs kid is now in high school, which has significantly more money to spend on special education programs. I want to comment specifically on how things have changed since my son was in first grade. First off, he has high functioning autism, so he was mainstreamed for an hour or two per day for reading and art. He saw Mrs. Patterson for reading, and he saw Mr.Franklin for art. His aide went with him to reading to keep him on track. When reading was over, he went back to his own classroom and Mrs. Patterson was able to handle the rest of the class in a normal setting. This arrangement worked very well for both teacher and student involved and did not add disruption to the classroom. Now, due to decreased budget, special education has been cut to the bone, and trying to get an aide for your child is a dream of the past. No matter how badly your child might need an aide, the district will always refuse and make it sound like there is a legitimate reason for it (he doesn't need it, blah blah blah, etc.) You have to battle for everything you get, and they can give you the bare minimum with no consequences to them. The result is mainstreaming kids who really should not be mainstreamed, or getting these kids into a classroom setting where they might be academically up to par, but they have social or behavioral problems that are basically left to be dealt with by the teacher. As I have seen over the years, it truly takes only one child to disrupt an entire classroom, and that is what is going on in alot of the classrooms today. Plus, teachers have to deal with IEP teams, parents, and other speciallist just to accomodate one child. Teachers who were hired to teach regular ed. are not equipped with the tools to deal with this, but more importantly this is not what they signed up for. I myself have done some classroom volunteering over the years, and please believe me when I say, I can spot the special needs child from a mile away, there is just no getting around it, it is very visible in a classroom setting. The solution to these problems lie with money, the more money there is for classrooms in general the more money there will be for special education and for classroom aides. Us special education parents know that our kids are expensive, and we try really hard to chip in and help wherever we can, but no matter what we do, we seem to be swimming against the tide. When my kid was young, I had my head down, just trying to accomodate his needs while trying to maintain anormal likfe with my other normal kid. This is they way ti is for us special needs parents, it just seems like we never get a break; many of us have been isolated by parents who have normal kids. It is a lonely life for us.
The newly formed special education PTA in Mountain View Whisman is trying to work with teachers to see if we can, in some way, lighten the load. We recently had an open house and invited educators to come. Every educator that attended was given a form so they could create a supplies wish list. In return for their coming to the event, we are trying to purchase at least one item, up to $25 for every teacher who reached out to us. Even though our budget is tiny, we are committed to spending it in ways that are appropriate to help the special needs community. Interestingly enough, not every teacher who attended the event was a special ed. kid, they were regular teachers, who needed supplies of all kinds for their classroom. We have purchased almost all of the things that were requested, and will start to distribute them next week. In addition to the supplies for teachers, we are creating after school social skills programs for our children, and we will be paying for this with money we hope to earn from grantwriting. As a special education Mom, I would like to do more to help our special eduation population because I believe that by doing so, we will be helping all kids. We are not allowed to raise money for classroom aides, (PTA charters are for after school enrighment), so we are trying to help out wherever we can. I hope that you can appreciate our efforts. If you need more information, please shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org