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The Downer 5 has now increased to the Downer 10

Ohanian Comment: I have posted several items about the mistreatment of the Downer Five. The story continues. Of course the behavior of the school personnel is reprehensible. But the union's refusal to respond to the attack on teacher professionalism is also reprehensible. When teachers are punished for standing up for pedagogy, their punishment should not be treated as a technicality. Teachers who remain silent in the face of pedagogical assault lose their professionalism.

A remarkable characteristic of the Downer group is their willingness to speak out:

Rigid drive for literacy burdens some teachers

Teachers Stand Up for Professionalilsm

Update on Downer 5 Struggle

by Eduardo Martinez

The Downer 5 has now increased to the Downer 10.

This time administration has decided to intimidate the Downer staff by using the evaluation process. Six teachers who have supported the Downer 5 in staff meetings and who are being evaluated this year, have received unsatisfactory with recommendations to not be rehired. I am one of the six who got a bad evaluation. The union will fight these evaluations, mostly on technicalities, ignoring the real issues.

Unfortunately for me, the administration followed the timeline more or less. Fortunately for the issues, the union will focus on harrassment when dealing with my evaluation. Below is an example of the nonsense this district has put me through.

The following, written the day after it happened, is my remembrance of what transpired at an Open Court unit planning meeting held for me and me only. I had meant to send it out at the time it happened just because it was such a bizarre experience, but I send it out now to help illustrate how my evaluation is part of a punitive campaign to silence my advocacy for my students and my school.

In my unsatisfactory evaluation this incident is referred to in the following recommendation for improvement: "Mr. Martinez needs to maintain a professional tone of voice and manner when discussing issues with his peers (Make up Unit Planning Session 2/10/06)." I must add that Ms. Melodia, my evaluator, was not at the unit planning nor did she ever talk with me about the incident. I am also the only teacher that was given a special two-literacy-coaches-for-one-teacher make up unit planning session although several otherteachers have missed these sessions.

Comments in brackets are added for clarification.
[The times are approximations, but very close to the exact times.]

Fabulous Friday, February 10, 2006

As many of you know, I missed an Open Court unit planning session because I had a doctor's appointment. To make sure that all the fifth grade teachers were "on the same page" and knowing that the fifth grade teachers could not possibly retain and pass on the information imparted during the in service, the literacy department or my principal or the head of personnel, someone (although administration wants accountability, no one has been able to tell me who is responsible for the whole or even a part of the Downer situation) decided that I was worth the extra money and that my students can do as well with a sub for a day.

My day started with an observation of my ELD lesson.

The principal, an administrator from downtown, my substitute and my vice-principal showed up in my room even before the morning announcements began. I was finishing up with directions for a sponge writing activity so I could do my usual morning paperwork. Before the announcements or the pledge, everyone but the sub walked out. I was a bit confused since I was told that I would be observed for my ELD lesson.

Later in the principal's office, I learned that the downtown administrator thought that my sponge activity was my ELD lesson. I was lucky to have had a chance to talk to her before she went back to the downtown office.

At 11 AM I went to the library to for my Open Court training. I showed up with my video camera, but without my Unit 3 teacher's edition. [I brought a camera as a impartial observer. The literacy coaches had been rather heavy handed with their Open Court propaganda and were not inclined do discuss pedagogy. I just wanted to insure that any attempts to have real discussions would not be twisted into the negative statement that it has become. Also the principal had come into my classroom during instruction time to inform me that I WOULD BE HAVING AN OPEN COURT UNIT PLANNING SESSION! Her tone of voice and the fact that she interrupted my lesson to inform me, led me to suspect that this might be more than a simple inservice, that it might be a test of my commitment to stay in the classroom with my students.

Unfortunately for my students, fortunate for me, I capitulated. The inservice was to be on that very same day but they could not get a substitute, so it ended up taking place on Friday.]

11 - 11:20 I sit alone in the library waiting for someone to come start the inservice. Finally one of the literacy coaches comes out of her office an notices me. She tells me that I need my Unit 3 and >that the inservice will take place in a room off the library.

11:20 -11:30 I go to my room to get my Unit 3 teacher's edition. My students delay me with questions.

11:30 - 11:40 The literacy coach tells me that session will be only the two of us since the other coach had a medical emergency. Pleasantries are exchanged and we begin the inservice. (I decide that I don't need the camera as witness since there is only one of them. I keep my camera in its case.) I immediately begin taking notes to capture all the wonderful information which will be shared with me.

The first tidbit I start to copy down is a testimonial of a second grade teacher who is amazed between the fantastic improvements in the students from the year before and the current students. This teacher doesn't know if it is the fact that the current group of students is the first cycle of "totally trained on Open Court" kiddies or....what else could it be???

She begins to give me a couple of more testimonials, but notices that I am taking notes, (Maybe it's also the fact that I am asking her to repeat certain parts so I can write it down correctly.) and blurts out that I can't quote her on anything that she's said. I don't understand why I can't quote what has been said to others before me and ask her.

"Because I don't want you to."

"Why wouldn't you want me to qu..."

"It's none of your business. If I don't want to be quoted, it's my right to not be quoted."

"If I'm attending an inservice in a public place on school time, I can quote anything I hear."

"You're making this a hostile work environment and I don't have to be a part of it!" She walks out of the room and leaves me by my lonesome.

11:40 - 11:55 I wait for someone to continue the inservice.

11:55 - 12:10 She returns. I ask if she is ready to resume. She says yes and sits down. Immediately after, the second literacy coach shows up like the cavalry to the rescue. We exchange pleasantries about her family and I begin to take out my camera. (Now there are two of them). I try to explain to them that I will be filming their inservice, but before I have a chance to finish my explanation, the newly arrived literacy coach, firmly says NO! I insist that I must and she says, "Read my lips...NO!" at which point I state that we have a problem. She says that she doesn't care what my problem is and that I can go talk to the principal if I like. I tell her that I would like to very much so and walk to the principal's office.

12:10 - 12:45 In the principal's office, I explain the situation, asking for an impartial observer. Ms. Uribes agrees to find one for me and has me wait in her office while she goes search for one.

12:45 - 1:05 The principal returns with someone from the ELD office. I begin asking her questions to see whether I can trust her to be an impartial observer.

She tells me that she did not come to be interviewed, but to be an impartial observer. I tell her that I need to ask the questions I am asking to feel assured that she is in fact an impartial observer. She understands my position and lets me continue with my questions. The questions lead to a discussion of pedagogy and I am assured that she will be a fair observer. We return to the site for the unit planning.

1:05 - 1:15 The observer announces herself and her role. Everyone agrees that this is okay. Before we can get into anything of substance, the coach who arrived late (family concerns kept her away from school) announces that she hasn't had lunch and it is now time. She suggests that we take 45 minutes for lunch. I accept. She stands in doorway looking at me. I stay in my seat. She repeats that we are having lunch and I have to be back in 45 minutes (not in a pleasant tone). I say okay. She continues to stand in doorway. I continue to remain seated.

She informs me that whether or not I want to take lunch, she is going to take hers, then she leaves. I turn to the observer and ask her if she can figure what that exchange was about. She says she will speak to the literacy coach.

1:15 - 2:00 I do not want to go to my room and disturb the classroom. I go to the teachers' lunchroom and sit.

2:00 - 2:10 The observer and I wait for the literacy coaches to show up.

2:10 - 2:40 We begin the inservice with a discussion of my successes and challenges in the classroom using Open Court. By the time I finish sharing what I do in the classroom, the literacy coach announces that it is the end of the school day and thanks me for coming.

I thank the impartial observer for her help and leave with all the invaluable information gleaned from this special inservice.

— Eduardo Martinez
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