Monday, January 12, 2009

I quit...kind of!

Today, I finally told New Town High School that I would not be returning next year. A little before the halfway point in the year, the Baltimore County School system gives its employees a survey asking them their projections for whether they will return the next year. I have thought long and hard over the past several weeks and I have concluded that I cannot face another year at New Town High.

Is this the smart move? Though I am quite sure I will be accepted into a good PhD program in Education, I have not recieved any formal acceptance. So why tell New Town that I will not be back if I am not assured of where I will be next year?

The honest reason is that the past five months have made me accutely aware that I do not believe in what I do: I do not believe in the approach taken by the debacle that is high school special educaiton. As I've mentioned in previous posts, we special educators are as much "professional enablers" as we are anything. Where we should be educating, we are ensuring that students need not learn anything. Where we should be helping students reach standards, we adjust standards more than students. When students fail to meet established goals in spite of the many "accomodations" we give, we question not the student or whether the goals are unrealistic, but whether we are giving enough accomodations.

I am finding it more and more difficult to adhere to, and participate in, a system with which I so passionately disagree. I do not like the the everyday-more-common feeling that my job consists of "getting students through" even when, as is often the case, this is not in their best interest. Generally, "getting kids through" is a nice way to say, "do whatever is expedient."

When I was an instructional assistant, I was told by several special educators that the average shelf-life of special educators was two years. I never disbelieved them, but decided to see what I could do. Today, I actualized a decision a while in the making to become one of the special educators they cautioned me about.

If PhD falls through, I will likely try my hand at administering college-level disability support, which subscribes to a much less coddling model; there, colleges are a bit more stingy with accomodations, expect the individual to initiate support services, and do not offer any modifications to the curriculum (only supports and supplements to it).

That's that.


  1. As the husband of a Sped teacher here in Washington State, I can see how you might want to quit. Getting the kids through is the name of the game here as well "doing whatever is expedient," as you say. What puzzles me is that you claim to be a moral relativist and pragmatist. Sounds to me like you're taking a principled moral position here. Shame on you. ;-)

  2. Pragmatism is not the idea of doing what is expedient, but doing what is likely to get the results you want to get. Obviously, doing what is expedient often clashes with doing what is likely to get good results. And also, it should be obvious that good teaching and good parenting should be measured by whether what we are doing is likely to produce good results. (What is likely to produce good results, and what good results are, is open to debate, but at least we don't take parenting/teafching advise from Ayn RAnd; if we did, we'd all do Montessori without question.)

    As far as whether a moral relativist can take moral positions, I would strongly advise that you read someone outside of Ayn Rand. She knows very little philosophy, and as a former Randian, I can attest that she micharacterizes many debates. She equates relativism with emotivism or "doing whatever." All I will say is that this is not accurate (relativism has to do with whether moral "imperatives" are contextual or absolute). A relativist can certainly argue that x is the right moral move in y setting because it would likely lead to z result.