The True Purpose of Tenure

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by TeacherShelly, Aug 14, 2010.

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  1. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    I've been thinking about how many of us view our job as that of employee to our employer (the principal, super, board, etc). This view of our situation is what makes us so easily cowed into teaching scripted curriculums and following all kinds of mandates that we may believe range from boring to teach to bad for student outcomes. Why do we see ourselves this way?

    Isn't this the true purpose of tenure?

    Tenure is supposed to protect us from reprisal when we exercise academic freedom. Academic freedom means we work for the students, experimenting and exploring theories to meet the students' needs. Academic freedom is the opposite of what many of us accept: "The Boss says to do it this way, and I value my job, so I do it."

    The Boss works for Walmart, Intel, Bank of America, etc, but not in our classrooms. We are protected specifically against reprisals for being academically free to teach. Why do we waste it?
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Speaking as a parent:

    Tenure is what allowed my 7 year old daughter to have a horrible teacher this year.

    A teacher who sat my daughter in isolation, all by herself, all day long. (Incidentally, NOT because she had misbehaved, though even that wouldn't be an explanation. But because she needed extra help and it was more convenient to put her there.)

    When I spoke to the principal, I told her how this experience had made me re-think tenure. This teacher is close to untouchable, unless she abuses a child or crosses the line often and obviously enough that it's worth bucking the teacher's union to get her fired. And she's not a horrible person, just a horrible teacher.

    But she has the double whammy of tenure and seniority; she's not going anywhere.

    Sorry, folks. I know that most of you are hugely in favor of tenure. But not me.
     
  4. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Tenure is what allowed my high school history teacher to call me "rich white witch" only the w was replaced with a b. She had accused me of cheating on a test so I took it again in the principal's office. I earned a 98 the second time instead of the 100 I had before. She thought it was proof that I had cheated but the principal stood by me.

    Tenure is what allowed that teacher's good friend to call my daughter's friend "white boy" some twenty years later.

    Tenure allowed my Wildlife teacher to fail a classmate on a test because he would not respond to an essay question the way she wanted. I played the game and wrote extensively on how Utah is the only place where saber-toothed tigers still roam freely. My friend decided to take a stand and he wrote in detail about their extinction. He failed, I got an A.

    Tenure allowed my daughter to have the worst teacher this county has ever seen. Four years prior the teacher was asked to take a leave of absence after she got caught throwing a chair at a student. It had happened before but not while the student's mother was in attendance. @@ The teacher was allowed to finish out the school year and according to her, she was asked to get some help and come back when she felt better. She spent some time in a psychiatric hospital and when she returned she was transferred to my daughter's school. It was a horrible year for everyone.

    I am definitely not in favor of tenure. I've had parents complain about me for made-up reasons and I haven't had the benefit of tenure. My husband works for the government and has people lie about him all the time and he doesn't have the benefit of tenure. I haven't seen where it protects good teachers. I've only seen where it keeps bad ones in the system. Have good teachers in the schools, have good adminstrators to back them and no one would need tenure.
     
  5. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    I don't believe in tenure, never have and never will. Since I work in private schools, I wouldn't even dream of ever having tenure. Sadly, I have never heard of where a good teacher was saved by having tenure (I would love to actually), but only bad teachers being saved by it.

    My Mom, when she was in high school, got her teacher in trouble--- he never taught them a single lesson, he'd sit there and read the newspaper, and even once he brought a lady friend of his in and just sat there and chatted with her. (This was in the late 70's) From that day forward the guy did teach, but the guy started stalking her when he'd see her around town. (He did this again when I was a little girl too)

    Anyways, I really think tenure should be done away with-- either you work for your job and you do a **** good job at it or somebody else will happily take that spot.
     
  6. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    The unintended consequences of tenure are:
    - bad teachers who should be fired having jobs for life
    - "yes sir" teachers who follow whatever stupid mandate comes down the road because they, for some reason, are afraid they'll lose their jobs if they don't.

    Weird paradox, at best.

    I would be in favor of tenure IF it protected and encouraged teachers to be professional educators who stood up against big curriculum companies (textbook -> test -> assessment -> remediation cycle). But we have instead a bunch of tenured teachers who do what they're told so they don't get fired.
     
  7. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Aug 14, 2010

    ...or who do what they want because they know they won't get fired.
     
  8. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    I just don't understand.

    Bad Teachers are protected by tenure and can't be fired.
    Teachers who do as they are told no matter what are afraid of being fired if they don't.

    How could anyone with tenure be fired for saying NO to stupid pedagogy?
     
  9. TiffanyL

    TiffanyL Cohort

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    I'm not sure if you are implying this or not but it sounds like you are stating that the recent threads/posts suggesting teachers "do what they are asked to do" are wrong because, if you have tenure, you can basically do as you want.
     
  10. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Tenure simply means that teachers have protection from undue firing. Administrators have 2 years to build 'a case' for letting a tenured teacher go. Yes, it requires paperwork and many administrators are hesitant go go through the motions... But if administrators are doing their job, they CAN get rid of teachers who 'need to go'. There is no excuse for letting bad teachers remain in classrooms.
     
  11. TeacherShelly

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    I don't think tenured teachers can do what they want and just ignore doing as they're told. I think teachers should be professional and perform to a high standard of professionalism, which includes exercising academic freedom as well as working cooperatively within the system.

    What I find really troubling is how quickly teachers give up academic freedom because they are afraid of being fired. The purpose of tenure is to protect teachers from being fired for exercising academic freedom.

    The most obvious and valid criticism of tenure is that teachers just let themselves behave completely unprofessionally and even abusively because they have tenure and can't be fired. But then teachers express the fear that they can be fired for not being on the right page in the script at the right time. How can both of these situations be true?
     
  12. WindyCityGal606

    WindyCityGal606 Enthusiast

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    Chicago Public School recently pink slipped hundreds of tenured teachers and we have one of the strongest teachers union in the nation so tenure doesn't mean much any more over here. There's a change a coming!
     
  13. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    But that was budgetary, right?? Good, bad or indifferent, teachers were pink slipped because of seniority, not performance??

    Tenure can only protect your job if there's a job to protect. If the job has been eliiminated because of budgetary or other issues, seniority rules the day.

    I think a huge part of the problem is this: teachers want it all.

    They want their jobs protected. But too many are unwilling to submit to any sort of a performance review. They put on a horse and pony show for evaluations, and the administrators can't or won't take the trouble to see what's reallly going on in the classrooms. They claim that kids' scores don't indicate good teaching, hate the thought of having to take a test themselves, don't want to be observed, but want their jobs protected.
     
  14. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Some teachers want it all. But not all of us. I want to be able to study pedagogy, content, and instruction, and then use best practices to teach my individual students. I want to be protected from top-down mandatory instructional practices. I want to demonstrate student growth for each kid individually, not a composite score from a state mandated test. There are much better ways!

    I also want the underperforming teacher who has one of my daughters for two years to go away and let us hire someone who would do a much better job.

    So, in a nutshell, it's my two issues:
    - want protection to do what makes good sense in an accountable way
    - want less protection for bad teachers
     
  15. WindyCityGal606

    WindyCityGal606 Enthusiast

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    In CPS, tenure is automatically earned after four (or is it three now) consecutive years on the job. So...seniority is what earns you tenure. No one with CPS over a certain amount of years is untenured unless they did something wrong somewhere along the line in terms of paperwork. Seniority did not protect any of those with tenure who were let go. It was budgetary but instead of pink slipping only those new hires, they also pink slipped tenured teachers with low evaluation ratings.
     
  16. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Tenure isn't an issue for me; I have a permanent contract and have a job as long as there is a job available within my (huge) school board. I may need to change schools if population declines (although at this point in time I've been around long enough that this isn't really a worry). So, I'm not worried about losing my job, but I do respect the fact that my administrators are my bosses and that I do need to follow their directives. Certainly, if quality of education or safety are concerns, I have channels to go through to address that. If, on the other hand, they are asking for plans to be written a certain way, or particular assessments be done, I feel that it is my professional duty to follow those.
     
  17. TiffanyL

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    Well, to the OP, I can say that I don't require my teachers to give up teaching creatively as well as the academic freedom to make their own decisions.

    However, if I suggested a strategy or method that I wanted our school to try, some teachers may agree and some may not.

    I can guarantee that the ones who do not agree would then claim that I'm taking away their academic freedom, that they know more than me, and that the pedagogy I'm suggesting is "stupid".

    Its the same thing if I held a veteran teacher accountable for outdated practices....many younger teachers may think I'm a hero, but when I also held them accountable....hmmm.......
     
  18. tracykaliski

    tracykaliski Connoisseur

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    I agree Alice. I don't think tenure is necessarily a good thing.

    Working in a private school, there is no such thing as tenure. I am an at will employee. If they don't want to renew my contract for next year, then they won't. Does that make me not take risks? Absolutely not. I take plenty of risks. Does it make me kow tow to my boss? Absolutely not. I disagree with him professionally and share my opinion on a regular basis and he knows that I have the best interest of the children at heart.
     
  19. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I don't think tenure can be blamed for poor teachers. Tenured teachers are not untouchable. For this reason, I am not anti-tenure.

    From *my* experience, it's not tenure allowing ineffective teachers to remain in the classroom but administrators unwilling to battle the process of terminating a tenured teacher.
     
  20. Unbeknownst

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    I do think that tenure exists, but not in the form that we're discussing right now.

    People who do a great job keep their jobs. Done.

    This would be the only form of tenure I would agree to.
     
  21. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    It's NOT about academic freedom....there are PLENTY of things teachers should not be 'free' about in classrooms. Yes, some teachers teach in districts where everyone has to be on page 72 in math today and on page 73 tomorrow regardless of whether the kids are still stuck on the concept covered on page 65. Those schools have a philosophy that is failing the kids and I would say YES, pull small groups and find a way to reach the kids who need re-teaching. But pure academic freedom? In many hands that would lead to anarchy. I have A LOT of freedom within my classroom because I am a trusted professional- that trust was earned and continues to be earned on a daily basis- it's not about my tenure and it's not about teaching what I want. With freedom comes accountability and responsibility...unfortunately, not all teachers take that responsibility seriously ...only to not meet student needs....Tenure provides ways of dealing with such disregard for student needs but it takes a committment on both the administration and the professional teaching staff.
     
  22. webmistress

    webmistress Devotee

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    I totally agree with this, and with TeacherShelly.
     
  23. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    Unfortunately, those of us who have yet to earn tenure (either because we are new as teachers or simply new to a district) have to play the "yes sir" game because (in my area) teachers without it can be let go without cause.
     
  24. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    My evaluations are split equally between scheduled and impromptu, so I do not often have the opportunity (or the inclination) to do the dog & pony show thing, but that's just where I am teaching. Student scores on mandated, high-stakes tests DO NOT always indicate teacher ability. Sometimes, it simply indicates students who have failed to learn due to any number of reasons (lack of family support or caring about education, to name one). I'll take a test any day of the week, and generally have observations by any number of people several times a week (to which I do not object). I'm honestly not trying to be argumentative, but that's just my situation. I'm sure there are others out there that are different.
     
  25. Maryhf

    Maryhf Connoisseur

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    Historically speaking, tenure was fought for to protect teachers from districts who would fire teachers for no reason to save money. Poor teachers can still be fired (or encouraged to retire, as my district does) but there needs to be a paperwork trail to show incompetence. I do not believe that teachers are bad because they have tenure and they don't need to try anymore. There are many reasons why teachers are no longer effective. A good administrator should be able to light a new fire under a tiring educator or start the firing process. Unions need to stop protecting the ineffective teachers. Those teachers are giving us all a bad name. My sons had some lousy teachers so I feel your pain Alice.
     
  26. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Interesting discussion. I don't have as much of a negative attitude about tenure because I have seen administrators work within the system to get rid of ineffective teachers. Yes, I have seen bad teachers who need to leave, but, I have seen countless more teachers who were excellent and deserved the job security that tenure gave them. Around here, if you are a teacher who has not yet earned tenure, you would not be able to buy a house because the banks don't consider your job secure.
    When my children have had horrendous teachers, I have gone to the school and when proper channels didn't work, demanded that they be moved to a better teacher's class. I even did that in high school for my daughter. (Long story, but she was happy with the change).That's just me...I'm not speaking for all parents in the same situation. That type of thing may not be possible for everyone.
     
  27. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    I agree and changes were made in our district as well this year. P's had to rank teachers in 4 categories from best to worst-the worst teachers were all put on growth plans and have a to attend specific pd's this year. If they don't show growth this year, they are out next year regardless of how long they have worked there (3 years here too to be considered "tenured"). They are also doing 4 official evals per year and many, many walkthroughs. The new Super is putting a lot of pressure on admins to have an effective teacher in every classroom-I actually welcome this process.

    I do think there's a push at least in these big urban districts to change the system.
     
  28. Kat53

    Kat53 Devotee

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    I am from the camp that I do NOT think scripted curriculum is bad. In fact, I prefer it. That does not mean that total autonomy is given up by the teacher. But teachers are not independent contractors. They are a piece of the whole.
     
  29. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Kat53, are you a principal? Does your school require scripted curriculum packages for different subject areas?
     
  30. Kat53

    Kat53 Devotee

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    Not a P. My last four years was working in school improvement/school turnaround as a coach. My view of programs and mandates comes from working in high needs, urban schools.
    In Arizona, most schools adopt a core curriculum for most subject matters. (social studies is usually independent) it's actually part of state mandate, but not enforced in all districts.
     
  31. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I'm sorry, I didn't mean ALL teachers-- my post does not reflect my own point of view others. I was talking about the most vocal of the teachers -- presumably the teacher unions.
     
  32. indigo-angel

    indigo-angel Companion

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    I don't think that tenure itself is a bad thing. I think far more good teachers are protected by it than bad ones. For example, I know of a couple good teacher who did not get along with administrators, but the administrators could not fire them because they had no grounds to. These teachers didn't go around saying their tenure protected them.
    I have also seen that principals keep bad teachers around because of political reasons. I know of horrible teachers who have done things I don't want to say, but have managed to stick around because 1) they are friends with an admin, 2) go to the same church as an admin or politician 3) are known in the community. Also, around here, school administrations are very transient; many schools go through a new principal nearly every year. These new princpals are less likely to spend their short times in these schools doing paperwork to get rid of bad tachers who were there long before they. If the students were always the priority, then we getting rid of the bad apples wouldn't be an issue.
     
  33. WindyCityGal606

    WindyCityGal606 Enthusiast

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    As a teacher in a union, I can tell you that we don't get to decide whether or not be want to be evaluated. Everyone gets rated and evaluated routinely, tenured and nontenured. Are there really places where teachers can choose not to submit to evaluations? I've never heard of this. I wonder how that works?
     
  34. Kat53

    Kat53 Devotee

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    In my past district, tenured teachers get evals every other year.
     
  35. love2teach

    love2teach Enthusiast

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    Yes, I think that teachers who are not doing thier job should be let go, however, administation needs to make that happen. It does require extra work (more than just letting someone who workds at a supermarket go) but it can happen.

    On a side note, what do some of you have to do to get tenure? It sounds like in some places you just get it after 3 years. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    In my district it is 3 years (2 if you worked in another district in the state and had tenure there) of many observations and evalutations (at least 3 a year, and some of them are from the assitant super) and during the year of tenure one must create a portfolio to be submitted to not only the principal but the super as well. In addition the district requiers many, many workshops and orientations for teachers who are not tenured. These workshops are not optional. Getting tenure is a big deal!

    Once tenured, you are formally observed once every 3 years and the years that you are not you have other on going projects and such that are worked on over the year and are submited to the principal.

    Just curious what others have to do.....
     
  36. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    (Bold, all caps, red, and large font because I am screaming these words as I type them into my computer right now.)

    K-12 TEACHERS DO NOT HAVE TENURE. TENURE IS RESERVED FOR UNIVERSITY FACULTY

    Look at your contract. The word "tenure" is probably not in it. Also, if you look closely, you can probably be terminated for a number of things, among them, insubordination and incompetence.

    If the above things are true about your contract, YOU DO NOT HAVE TENURE. Tenure is what university faculty have. They are pretty much untouchable. Unless they do something illegal or unethical, they pretty much can do whatever they please in the classroom.

    But we elementary and secondary teachers most likely have a "permanent contract." All that means is that our contract gets renewed every year. We can be fired for violating the terms of the contract. The contract usually states that we will teach our classes in an effective manner and do what the principal says.

    OK, fine. But why then is it so hard to fire a teacher?

    When you have a contract and you release somebody from that contract, you must have a legal reason for doing so that complies with the terms of the contract. And you must be able to prove that reason in court.

    And that's the hard part. Proving it in court. Sure they can call me incompetent all they want. But just how exactly do they prove it? What they call incompetence, I call "a unique teaching style." And besides, I think they are incompetent. So there. Basically, competence is such an abstract term that it's very hard to use it as a basis to hire someone and have it hold up in court.

    The other problem, though, is that teaching is a very abstract profession. What might define excellence in the eyes of one person could very well be incompetence in the eyes of another. Suppose you are an English teacher with a reputation as a very tough grader. You have very high standards for the quality of work that your students turn in. Good, right? Well, many of your students end up in tears when they get their papers back and a few have even dropped out of school after failing your class.

    So what if they did away with permanent contracts and made us all like first and second year teachers? Teachers would then no longer be protected from the shifting pendulum of never ending education "reform" that causes us have to change our teaching style every 7 to 10 years. I can guarantee you that things that my admins direct me to do (often in writing) are exact things that would have caused them to not renew my contract 15 years ago when I first started. Back then, they told me that I was, under no circumstances, to force kids to read aloud in class. Damages their self esteem if they can't read, they said. Well, now, I am directed to have every student read aloud in class at least once a day because of "research" that points to reading aloud and a great boost to reading fluency.

    Everyone who has bashed the job security that we have should consider what they would do in the following situations if they were only employed "at will" or could be non-renewed without cause:

    • One day they tell you that teaching phonics is no longer allowed and that you must go back to teaching whole language even though you know that it doesn't work with the high-risk students that you have.
    • You fail a student who's parents loudly complain to the school board about you. The student did not turn in a single assignment all semester. Your principal wants you to pass the student so that he graduates and goes away. If you fail him, he'll be back next year.
    • Instead of using actual cardboard flash cards to review sight words, you make a Powerpoint that displays the words on a screen. That way you can walk around the room and re-direct kids who are not paying attention, increasing student engagement. You can also make the powerpoint display words the kids struggle with more than once. Your principal does not like this because you are deviating from the scripted curriculum which says "Use the sight words flash cards for review," even though your method is far more effective. But principal has been directed by the district office to make sure all teachers follow this scripted program to the letter and you are not doing that in her opinion.

    (The last one happened to me, and I'm glad that I was able to put my foot down and raise a stink about why my method was better.)
     
  37. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

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    This was similar to my tenure process as well with the various observations, by various people, a very lengthy portfolio, workshops, etc. etc......Once, tenured, we still have to have observations/performance evals, and continued work on our own prof. portfolios, professional goals each year. Our teacher's union supports this whole-heartedly.
     
  38. WindyCityGal606

    WindyCityGal606 Enthusiast

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    Well, it's called tenure in our 4 year contract between our union and the board of ed. Our union is suing the board of ed right now for violating the rights of its tenured teachers by pink slipping some of them. The word tenure is what is used here both in conversation and in the contract. I understand the way this word has been used historically but it is now being used more frequently in our profession as well. We receive tenure after 3 or 4 year..just like that. No hoops to jump through. Just do our job and do it well. We are evaluated often and with rigor. Our evaluation process will no longer be subjective as it has been in the past. It has been revamped and will now require proof for everything noted. We''l see how that goes but I'm glad it is changing because the previous system was really vague.
     
  39. DrivingPigeon

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    Ugh, don't get me started on scripted programs. When I saw "the sisters" a few weeks ago, they spoke a lot about these programs being used strictly as a resource. If there was a program that worked for every student, everyone would be using it! They talked a lot about how our best resource is our brain, but scripted programs cause us not to use our brains.

    Anyway, I have had some horrible teachers. I was an excellent student until 4th grade. My 4th and 5th grade teachers were horrible. It wasn't until 8th grade that I was getting straight A's again.

    When I subbed at a private school, there was a horrible teacher who had been working there for a while. They needed to eliminate a position, but the more recently hired teachers were great. So, they were able to let the more experience, not-so-great teacher go. It just seems to make sense!
     
  40. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

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    Aug 14, 2010

    Where I am, it is referred to as a Continuing Contract. However, many use tenure as a slang term. Historically speaking, tenure was specifically created to protect university faculty to ensure only that employment could not be terminated for his or her exercise of independent research or relevant classroom speech, no matter how controversial. It protected the exercise of academic freedom. Without the freedom to intellectually explore new concepts, theories, principles, and practices, the advancement of knowledge it was tthought would be stifled. The original purpose of tenure was to protect intellectual creativity.
     
  41. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Aug 14, 2010

    Thanks for clarifying where you're coming from. ...
     
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