There is a big push for the accountability of educators, when the emphasis needs to lie in responsibility and trust.
Malayphet is an Oakland native and 17-year-veteran educator. She is currently the transitional kindergarten teacher for 18 students at EnCompass Academy in East Oakland. She has taught pre-k, kinder, and multiple combination classes during her time in the district. She was gracious enough to share some thoughts on teaching in Oakland Unified during her lunch break.
What changes have you seen in OUSD since you started teaching?
There have definitely been a lot of changes since I grew up here. The tracking system has gone away and there is a more child-centered approach to teaching. Teachers seem more reflective and less inclined to blame the child if the child is not learning. It’s more, “what can I do to scaffold my instruction so they can be successful.”
Early on in my career, I saw a shift away from conceptual knowledge to more procedural knowledge, in the form of Si Swun and Open Court. Now we are seeing a shift back towards conceptual knowledge. I’ve also seen the start of a push to reduce class-size.
What is your class size right now?
My class is at 18, which is amazing. It makes a huge difference. I get to interact with my students one-on-one everyday. There is more time for small groups.
I know I am never going to be rich, the pay is never going to be enough for the work I do. Every other teacher in my school has more students than mine. It’s really unfair that our class sizes need to average 24 for TK-3 (the cap for upper grades is 31). This creates a need for administrators and teachers to make hard choices. In order to make budget, there is the constant threat of consolidating teachers. The other option is to combine small classes. I’ve taught a TK-Kindergarten combo and K-1 combo, and neither were ideal.
How would you deal with this problem?
Right now, there is no incentive to be a teacher. If you have more students than other classes, you don’t receive more support or more pay. There is too much testing; even in TK we spend two week with literacy tests, even though research shows that long-term achievement is more correlated to play-based activities versus literacy activities at that age.
There is a big push for accountability of educators, when the emphasis needs to lie in responsibility and trust. From testing, large class sizes, committees, lack of planning time, and PDs that lack differentiation, teachers are asked to do the impossible without the conditions they need to be successful.
How do you feel right now?
Hella annoyed. Done with this damn salad.
I have been criticized throughout the course of my career for placing too much faith in the reliability of children's narratives; but I have almost always found that children are a great deal more reliable in telling us what actually goes on in public school than many of the adult experts who develop policies that shape their destinies.