My Cooperative Teacher Threw Me Under the Bus!!

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  1. Teacher41

    Teacher41 Rookie

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    Nov 8, 2012

    :help:

    My mentor teacher decided to abruptly end my clinical practice in her classroom after parent-teacher conferences. My mentor teacher is 47, and I am 41. I have previous teaching experience at the community college level but wanted to pursue a language arts license because I thought it would be fun to teach high school English.

    Anyway. Things were fine with my mentor teacher (or so I thought) until parent-teacher conferences. At one point, my mentor teacher actually left me alone to conference with parents for 2 hours while she "went home to check on her middle school kids." I was like, "Uh, you're not allowed to leave me here alone according to your mentor teacher handbook. But she did anyway. When she came back, a very angry mother went on a diatribe about how much she hates student teachers because they take away from her teenagers' education, esp. since she's one of the high school's wealthy donors (she threw this fact out several times). Having not been prepped as to how to handle irate parents (having never had to conference with any when I taught community college), I over-reacted, taking the mother's personal attacks on my character...personally. So I told the mother that I was offended by her comments, then I listed off my teaching credentials. (Big mistake, yeah, I know) The next day the principal was seething, and yelled at my mentor teacher when the mother called the principal to yell at her about my defensive comments. The principal made my mentor teacher call the irate mother to apologize, so then the mentor teacher yelled at me for making her do that.

    Two days later, I was sitting in the principal's office with my teaching supervisor, mentor teacher, the principal and assistant principal. My mentor teacher - who had given me 3's out of 4's on all of her formal observations of my lesson plans, complimented me daily on my teaching ability, my great rapport with students and how well I was doing with classroom management - threw me under the bus with blatant lies: she said that I didn't make the classroom a safe environment and that I didn't have good rapport with students. Even my teaching supervisor tried to advocate for me (as I was told not to speak), asking my mentor teacher to elaborate, which she could not or would not do.

    So now I have to go before a committee for an Action Plan meeting because technically, they have to let me redo my student teaching since I passed all of my coursework, passed all of my field experiences, and technically passed 7 weeks of my student teaching this fall with high scores.

    I know the Dept. Chair doesn't like me and I have a meeting scheduled with the Dept. Chair and Academic Dean to discuss or "debrief" them both about my side of the story because I refuse to let someone's lies ruin my chances of completing a $65K masters in teaching program. I'm broke, unemployed, and if I can't redo my student teaching in a fair way, I will STILL be broke, unemployed, and with huge student loan debt. I would have to get a masters to go back to teaching at the community college level (I was laid off for not having a masters degree after hiring standards were changed).

    I'm looking for advice as to how I can advocate for myself at this point, knowing that the Dept. Chair has it out for me, that my mentor teacher told blatant lies about my teaching performance in her classroom. I've read all the policies for my program, so I know what my rights are and how to file a formal grievance. But if I file a grievance now, that will only delay my student teaching and maybe get me into more trouble. Like I said in the previous paragraph, I'm in debt, broke, and have no financial support system to fall back on except for miniscule savings, because I'm single with no children.

    Any advice? Sorry for the length. I'm really stressed out. If I were in my early 20s it would be easier to just switch careers. But I'm 41 and I don't want to do more graduate school and live in abject poverty for another 3 years.
     
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  3. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Nov 8, 2012

    Why do all these people "have it out for" you? Is it possible that you're not taking as much responsibility for your actions as you should?

    If "technically, they have to let" you redo your student teaching, then I think you'll be fine. Your plans might be delayed a little bit since it will take a little longer to become certified, but one additional semester isn't going to destroy your teaching career. Hopefully you'll be placed in a setting with someone who doesn't "have it out for" you so that you will be able to use that person as a good, solid reference as you begin your job search.

    Good luck to you.
     
  4. Teacher41

    Teacher41 Rookie

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    Nov 8, 2012

    Hi Casesar,

    Well I think mentor teachers should be held accountable for their actions. After all, she agreed to host me in her classroom. For her to blatantly lie, and not be held responsible for the consequences, is unjust in my opinion.

    And of course I took responsibility for my mistakes. After all, the point of student teaching is to make mistakes and to learn from them, with the help of the mentor teacher. But if that mentor teacher doesn't do their job, then I can't do my job either - which is to complete my clinical practice so I can apply for a teaching license and start a teaching career.

    While you say that a semester delay isn't the end of the world, maybe for you it's not if you have a spouse to financially support you which I do not. I have no support, period. I am completely on my own here. Now I have to scramble to find 2-3 part time jobs that pay minimum wage so that I can pay my rent and bills and food. Then there's the fact that I won't make enough to save for the 3.5 months I'll be student teaching again in the spring, which is unpaid. Sure I can over-borrow for a student refund but spring refund amounts aren't as large as fall refund amounts.

    So I'm going to disagree with you that this delay doesn't have negative consequences on my life. It does and I have to weigh whether or not this is worth finishing. And it's not right that my Dept. Chair made those unprofessional, negative comments to me and that my mentor teacher can get away with telling blatant lies which shows a complete absence of conscience in my opinion.
     
  5. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Nov 8, 2012

    What has your department chair said or done that makes you think that he or she "has it out for" you?

    Of course student teachers make mistakes. You made a big one here. It's not the end of the world, but there are consequences. For you, that means that you're likely going to have to do your student teaching elsewhere. Will it be challenging and financially difficult? Yes, but there's not a lot that you can do about that. You made your choices (to flip out on a parent) and these are the consequences. If you're going to let it destroy your education and chances of becoming a teacher, it will. If you're willing to pick yourself up and move on, you can.

    I realize that this isn't easy, but you've got to focus on what you can fix. You can't undo what you've done, so you have to deal with your new options. Find a way.
     
  6. Teacher41

    Teacher41 Rookie

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    Nov 8, 2012

    Are you a teacher? If so, have you ever hosted a student teacher?

    My Dept. Chair said some really hurtful, personal, unprofessional comments to me during my meeting with her that had no connection to my student teaching experience. According to my university's policies, verbal abuse is not tolerated. And her comments definitely fit within the verbal abuse category. So I'm meeting with the academic dean and the dept. chair to address her unprofessional verbal abuse.

    I'm not arguing with you as to my mistake with the parent at the parent-teacher conference. By the way, I did not "flip out on a parent" as you put it. That implies that I went ballistic as though I yelled at the parent or stomped my feet or something like that. That's not the way it happened at all.

    And to say that I need to pick myself up and move on, is not really helpful to me. One would say "pick yourself up, dust yourself off" to a teenager after their softball team lost the game. It's a bit patronizing to say that to someone my age.

    No, my situation isn't easy. It's as far from easy as Chicago is from Hong Kong. The only control I have in my situation is my reaction to everything. I can't control when or if I can find a job(s) to support myself financially. I can't control the level of fairness I'll be treated with by my program committee at my upcoming Action Plan meeting. I can't control the way my Dept. Chair or anyone else treats me. I can't control the new mentor teacher's actions either. But I have my limits. My limits are tied to finances, the way people treat me (boundaries), and the time I continue to invest in a career path that may not be the right fit after all is said and done. I may have to go back to school against my will to get a masters in my subject area, just so I can get a community college teaching job again. I don't like to quit when I'm so close to the finish line. But I have my limits and financial straits are a critical limit. I can't go live with mom and dad or sis or brother or a relative if I lose my apartment because i can't find jobs to support myself. I have to think about these things because all I have to rely on, is myself. Until you walk in my shoes, you have no idea how difficult it is. No idea.
     
  7. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Nov 8, 2012

    Then I guess I can't help you. Sorry for trying.
     
  8. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Aficionado

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    Nov 9, 2012

    I understand your frustration - unfortunately I can't offer any advice.
    I don't think you should be penalized for what happened. Your teacher made a mistake by leaving you alone with parents for 2 hours. During student teaching you are also supposed to learn how to deal with parents, which is not easy. Your teacher should have modeled the interaction for you, and guide you through it, and then maybe even let you do it, with her watching.
    You took a parent's personal comments personal. Ok, you were not supposed to, but how many teachers still take students' comment personal and get into arguments with them? Many. Parents are no different, some of them are just big babies in grown up bodies with more sophistication to attack you.
    Just because this parent is a hot-shot with money, it doesn't mean you should be punished. Your teacher should have stuck up for you - she probably didn't because she knew she was in the wrong.

    If I had to redo my student teaching for something like this, I'd be mad. Student teaching is hard and on top of it you don't make any money, so none of us want to do it for 1 day more than we're supposed to.
    I'm hoping someone's from your college will help you through this.
     
  9. Teacher41

    Teacher41 Rookie

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    Nov 9, 2012

    Thank you for seeing my POV in this situation, Linguist92021. That helps a lot to have my feelings validated - that it's completely normal to be upset by what has happened to me. For the first two weeks after this happened, I barely slept or ate out of shock. (If I'd had a masters degree, I'd still be employed at the community college where I was an adjunct part-time instructor.)

    The mentor teacher violated both her school and my university's policies with regards to her leaving me alone at the parent-teacher conferences while she was at home for 2 hours, when she only lives 2 blocks away. I couldn't believe that she did that to me and wasn't held accountable by her principal or my dept chair. Of course my mentor teacher didn't stick up for me.

    She knew she was in trouble the moment she left me alone with all these parents waiting to talk to her. What was I supposed to do? Then when I wanted to talk to the principal about this after it all happened, I was shocked that the principal didn't want to meet with me or my teacher advisor, but just with my mentor teacher instead. That seemed shady to me. You know? Talk about putting me between a rock and a hard place. God only knows what lies my mentor teacher told behind closed doors. I'm sure she didn't say anything about leaving me alone at the parent-teacher conference, where the principal was spotted at various times. I'm surprised she didn't notice my mentor teacher's absence. And in hindsight, I should have brought the principal over the moment this irate parent started her diatribe about student teachers. If I had done that instead of overreact I wouldn't be in this situation. :mad:

    And, I agree that I should not have had to repeat a whole semester of student teaching for the mistake I made. I'm irritated that all the people in charge took the easy way out - complete avoidance and no accountability on their parts but instead put all the blame on me.

    Had I known student teachers are easy scapegoats with no rights, I never would have pursued a teaching license but gone the masters degree route instead (I think i will regret that decision for the rest of my life now). I mean, I have an inch thick book titled "student teacher responsibilities" and "mentor teacher responsibilities" that I read cover to cover (my mentor teacher never cracked open her copy).

    I'm esp. mad that I'm going to be put out financially to go through this all over again in the spring. I have to repeat 7 weeks of the 16 so that means I have from now until the start of the spring semester to try to find ways to make a livable income PLUS try to set aside rent money that a spring refund can't cover. If I had completed my student teaching as planned this semester, I'd have just one masters class left to take in the spring, and the ability to find a full time teaching job before the spring semester.

    The only person I trust is the academic dean whose job it is to see that my program faculty treat me with academic fairness and don't violate the university's policies (which the dept chair already has with regards to the verbal abuse she gave me during my meeting with her).

    My Plan B is to find a full time job (not in education), scrap the completion of my program, and waste $40K and 2 more years getting a masters in my content area so that I could at least teach at the college level where there are no parent-teacher conferences and the politics are more transparent - that is, easier to see coming from a distance - and less of a punitive result.

    So what if I invested the past 3 years of my life (unable to work full time due to field experiences, and classes) and thousands of dollars in financial aid? It means nothing to teachers who agree to host student teachers or to graduate faculty who spew verbally abusive, pejorative comments for the sake of trying to intimidate and induce fear. I deserve better treatment. Period.
     
  10. bros

    bros Phenom

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    Nov 9, 2012

    Calm down a bit and envelop yourself in research.

    Look at your college's policies regarding repeat experiences. I know my college allows people to repeat preprofessional field three times (includes one extension) and they allow people to repeat student teaching once.

    Make sure to be calm and composed when meeting with the department chair even if you think they have it out for you. They will understand that your cooperating teacher violated the contract that they agreed to when they agreed to take you on as a student teacher.
     
  11. hbcaligirl1985

    hbcaligirl1985 Cohort

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    Nov 9, 2012

    Quite frankly, I think you comments to Caesar are about as unprofessional as you claim your mentor teacher was to you. I had a nightmare student teaching experience too, but I take accountability that I was a large part of the problem. I have two elderly grandparents I'm trying to take care of, but you made your choices. Unfortunately, the school will most likely side with the teacher. Complaining about the department chair to the dean isn't going to do you any favors either. It will make you a no hire for that school and possibly for that district. Act your age in this matter and let it go. You are acting like a 17 year old who can't get their way.

    Right now your best bet is to meet privately with your supervisor and to discuss the best course of action from here. Listen to what s/he says and learn from it.
     
  12. ku_alum

    ku_alum Aficionado

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    Nov 9, 2012

    What hbcaligirl said.

    Did you have any warning that a Masters degree was needed to continue teaching? The college I teach for made the same changes. People were given 5 years to finish degrees. As long as someone made progress on the degree, he/she kept their job.
     
  13. HeatherY

    HeatherY Habitué

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    Nov 9, 2012

    Well, there are two sides to everything, but I don't see how what you did was so bad. Everyone puts their foot in hteir mouth sometimes. Then they wouldn't let you speak in a conference? I do not go for that. If I can't speak, I might as well not be there. I would have stepped up and said something during that meeting. "If you seem to think I'm so awful at teaching, then why were you giving me high marks the last 7 weeks? I'm truly confused by your comments. I had no idea that you felt this way" "I know that I made a mistake and I understand that this person donates money to the school. Could I perhaps call her and apologize personally?" Now I think you've lost your advantage. Is there anyone else at the university you can talk to and try to get as an advocate? Worst case, you do it again. I'd be up front with the next MT about what happened and explain how you've grown and what you would do if that happened again.
     
  14. greendream

    greendream Comrade

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    Nov 9, 2012

    The school seems like a horribly toxic environment the way you've described it. Is there any way you can be placed in a different school?
     
  15. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Virtuoso

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    Nov 9, 2012

    It is probably for the best that your student teaching at this school was ended. The situation doesn't sound tenable after that breach during conferences. However, I would rely more on your advisor to steer your next step and continue advocating for your than the department chair. This is salvageable.
     
  16. houseofbooks

    houseofbooks Companion

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    Nov 9, 2012

    :yeahthat:
     
  17. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    Nov 9, 2012

    How do you know that the Dept. Chair doesn't like you?

    When you have the meeting with the Dept. Chair & Academic Dean stay calm & make sure you have your evaluations that rated you high with you.

    You've learned a valuable lesson, no matter how much parents upset us, as a teacher you must remain professional. I know tough to do at times.

    Remaining professional at all times, whether dealing with parents, students or administration is a must.

    Honestly, you don't sound like you are being professional. Take a deep breath & regain your professionalism.

    It sounds like you have some tough decisions to make. . .whether or not you can financially continue to student teach.
     
  18. Mathemagician

    Mathemagician Groupie

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    Nov 9, 2012

    Sounds more like an uncooperative teacher to me!
     
  19. JustMe

    JustMe Guru

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    Nov 9, 2012

    Yeah, I'm not really seeing your big, horrible mistake. Your cooperating teacher made a huge mistake, though, by leaving you alone for parent conferences.
     
  20. Teacher41

    Teacher41 Rookie

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    Nov 10, 2012

    Well no, the part-time adjunct instructors like myself were told one month before our lay-off date. Not very convenient when you suddenly had to find a grad program to get enrolled in, so that you could save your job. In retrospect it wasn't a very good place to work as they had a high turnover of their teaching staff. If I do go back to get my masters in English, I won't re-apply at that community college as that would be a waste of time.
     
  21. Teacher41

    Teacher41 Rookie

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    Nov 10, 2012

    I agree with you that what I did was a mistake, but not one to warrant having to start my student teaching experience all over again - especially since my mentor teacher violated her school and my school's policies with regards to mentoring student teachers, when she left me alone at the parent-teacher conference.

    I even tried to salvage the conversation with the irate parent, by apologizing for taking her comments personally and tried to assure her that I would bring value to her teenager's class while I was at the school.

    Clearly my apology to the parent at the conference had no effect, as she called the school principal the next morning. But at least I apologized to her which the principal, my mentor teacher and department chair seem to have overlooked (or dismissed).

    And at the meeting afterward with the mentor teacher, school principal, vice principal and my advisor I did acknowledge to everyone that what my mentor teacher said wasn't accurate. Although my advisor told me not to speak at the meeting, I felt like my rights again were violated so I did speak up at the meeting's end. That didn't go over well with my advisor who admonished me outside in the parking lot, after the meeting. But again, I'm 41, not some naive 20-something. I'm going to defend my character when my investment (graduate school to become a teacher) is at stake.

    This experience has shown me that education is all about politics. No one regards the rules or policies set in place, especially people at the higher level like administration and faculty. Principals lie, supervisors like, even teachers lie. They are worse than criminals in that sense, the way they lie and manipulate to protect themselves.

    The way I'll make sure that the next mentor teacher and principal follow the rules for my university's clinical practice is to request that they meet with me and my advisor. I'll have to be blunt about my expectations to make sure that the mentor teacher knows that he/she has responsibilities as a mentor to me, otherwise then don't take on a student teacher if you're not willing to put in the time and effort to actually mentor that student teacher.
     
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