Insightful reflection on Eximius
Including Eximius College Preparatory High School on the Do Not Apply list set off a mini-war in the comments section. I closed off comments (you may continue here) after an ex-teacher left these particularly thoughtful words:
I am a former Eximius teacher also. I loved the students at Eximius and I did my best, day in and day out, to help them reach their potential. I truly believe they deserve much better, not just from Eximius, but from the whole system which has failed them miserably. They deserve good teachers, but the only way they’ll get them is if there’s a healthy working environment that attracts and sustains good teaching. All members of the school community deserve to be heard and respected! Teachers are people too, and it is only fair for potential employees to know what they’re getting into before it’s too late to change their mind. Throwing people in who have no clue what they’re in for is a recipe for disaster for the kids and is certain to breed resentment for all.
It’s really too bad that this blog is literally the only place some staff members and parents feel free to tell their truths
The tone is set at the top. It’s almost like Ms. Smith keeps waiting for the teachers to do it, but the only one who can really set a positive tone is Ms. Smith herself, and for whatever reason, she has not been able to do so.
But I’m fairly certain that the way Ms. Smith treats her staff is a direct reflection on the way the DOE treats her.
But to be fair, I don’t think Ms. Smith wants her school to fail or has ulterior motives. In fact, I think she cares a lot. I just don’t think she knows how to turn it around. She is drowning and has been for a while. She clearly has little support herself. The AP and the former AP’s are/were between a rock and hard place. (And contrary to other posters, I think Ms. Breitling does what she feels is right for her students, however unpopular).
I definitely learned a lot … unfortunately … mostly survival skills in the harsh world of DOE politics, and little about the actual craft of teaching.
(more beneath the fold – > )
I firmly believe that for anything to change, the problems must be named truthfully, and open dialogue must ensue. It’s really too bad that this blog is literally the only place some staff members and parents feel free to tell their truths. As one poster suggested, it can be cathartic to finally speak freely about a negative experience. However, I wish we all could have been heard when we actually could have changed things.
I wanted to add that I think the big issues at Eximius are systemic issues also. It is a complicated thing to try to figure out what went so wrong. But I’m fairly certain that the way Ms. Smith treats her staff is a direct reflection on the way the DOE treats her. She cares about bulletin boards because that’s what the DOE cares about when they walk in and take a cursory glance. You ask, how can these schools throw a first-year teacher into the worst schools, watch them flounder, and then blame them? But the same can be said of the principals. How can the DOE, in all good conscience, continue to throw inexperienced leaders into the worst schools and turn a blind eye while they continue to drown? It should not be the case that “good” principals are the ones who are willing to buck the system to do what’s best for kids, while the “status quo” principals are the ones who tow the party line, often to their school’s detriment.
Obviously there is a breakdown in the current system if the school leaders are not being held accountable for what actually goes on in their building. There should be checks and balances on power and there should be transparency in the information used to judge the schools, principals, and teachers. Under Klein and his corporate cronies, and especially in these “empowerment schools,” the balance of power has been tipped way too far and the information seems even more opaque (and therefore susceptible to manipulation) than ever. It should not be the case that incompetence, greed, or corruption, is allowed to run amok, in any school or at any level. The natural ‘check’ on power – the UFT – has not really helped either, I’m afraid to say. They have really dropped the ball when it comes to some of these small schools. This is no accident. I truly believe the small schools have become a union-busting tool and sadly it’s working.
But let me be clear: understanding the dysfunction within the DOE is not an excuse for the abuse that happened in Eximius and in some of the other schools on the list. I am only saying that fixing the larger problem is not as easy as removing one principal. Shame on the DOE for allowing and continuing to allow these situations to occur in the first place.
Anyhow, I have a heavy heart about my experience there, wishing I could have been more successful, but I’m not ashamed to say that I’m very glad to have moved on with my life. Eximius really did suck me dry emotionally. I definitely learned a lot from the experience, but unfortunately it was mostly survival skills in the harsh world of DOE politics, and little about the actual craft of teaching. I certainly hope, for the sake of the great kids whom I had the privilege of knowing at Eximius, that Ms. Smith and her new staff will be able to turn things around by fostering a trusting and open atmosphere — in other words, a healthy working environment — where good teachers want to be — so that the kids can actually get the education they deserve.