I teach my students that their reputation is the most important asset they own. Your reputation is determined by your actions, your deeds, and also how you are viewed by others. Therefore, it is vital that you understand that your reputation ultimately defines you. Success is not judged by how much you make, but rather, real success is judged by your character and how others view your actions and deeds. I believe this with my heart and soul.
Unfortunately, my character was questioned by an unproven allegation. Ultimately it was determined I did no wrong and the allegation was unfounded. I write this posting today as a record of what has transpired over the last two days. I also owe my students and their parents an accurate representation as to what occurred so that they may be fully informed.
My views on the Common Core and high stakes testing, are well documented on this blog as well as on other web sites including Facebook and Twitter. I assumed that one day, I would be challenged for my beliefs, and I have even commented that teachers live in fear of retribution for their beliefs. Well this week it was my turn to be challenged. Not only was my professional judgement challenged, my First Amendment Rights were challenged.
It all began Wednesday evening with the following “tweets”;
My initial tweet was an editorial comment based on a Common Core standard (which includes a similar example in the standard), and included a generic example that can be found in many practice workbooks. As you can see Allison Sitts, aka, IthacaGorges took exception to my message and accused me of posting an actual test question. I followed up with a response stating that it was not an actual test question. At this point I thought little of Allison, I didn’t remember conversing with her before and just assumed the conversation was over. Well it wasn’t!
The next morning ( Thursday) I administered part 2 of the New York State Math Common Core Math assessments to my class. Immediately following this exam, ( It was literally minutes after collecting the test books.) My principal was standing at my classroom doorway , with a very distraught and serious look on her face, and says, “I need you to come outside now.”
I say, “OK, I’ll be right there.”
She then says, ” I need you right now. “
My first thoughts are about the well being of my elderly parents, my wife or my children.. so I leave the room and find my Superintendent there, who immediately hands me a letter, and says. “you must come with me now.” Without having time to read the letter, I grab a pen, and a notebook and then he, and my principal escorted me downstairs, into the administrative wing and ultimately into his office. On the way down he informs me that my union representative and union president are on the way and that they will join us. Once in the office, as we waited for my representative to arrive, I read the letter and it said that I was going to be interviewed regarding concerns about my workplace conduct. So there I sat.. wondering what is this about?
Once my representatives arrived, I was initially questioned whether or not I posted test questions on the internet, on my blog , or on Twitter. I replied I did not and then I was shown the tweets that are at the center of this controversy. I explained that it was a generic example with an editorial comment, and that I am entitled to post my opinion. He then informed me that Alllison Sitts , who I just then found out is a math specialist for Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga- Boces, sent an e-mail to my principal accusing me of posting test questions and suggested my district conduct an investigation. ( Now to be fair, as of today I have not read that e-mail because it has not been provided to me yet.)
Based on this, my superintendent informed me that he would be contacting the Nassau County BOCES Superintendent and the New York State Education Department, regarding my ” posting of a state test question.” He then informed me that I would be placed on administrative leave and would not be allowed back into my classroom. As you can well imagine, a heated discussion followed which I will not disclose at this time. Throughout the entire discussion I maintained my position that under the First Amendment I am entitled to post my opinions, and that I did not post any test questions.
I immediately expressed a concern for my students. I told him my students saw me removed from my classroom, and I know that they will be upset.I was basically told, they don’t know why you left and they’ll get over it. I also expressed a concern that my students are facing a 6th day of extensive testing the next day and that it was unfair that they will be forced to face it without their teacher ‘s encouraging words. As you can imagine, that appeal fell on deaf ears.
I asked why didn’t they wait until my prep period to summon me thereby not having the children observe me being escorted out. I also questioned, why I was being removed from the classroom, and why couldn’t the investigation continue while I was teaching. Was I a threat to the school or my students???
I was told that upon the advice of the district’s counsel I was being placed on administrative leave.
I was offered the choice of remaining in an office to work on lesson plans or I can work from home. At this point, after consulting with my representatives, and a NYSUT ( our union) attorney I decided to work from home. I then had to wait until my students lunch period, so that I may be escorted by my principal to my room, to gather my personal belongings.
I then left the building and went home.
On Friday, I received a hand delivered letter at home, with a directive to pick one of three thematic units to develop. As I sat home wondering when I would be allowed to return to my class ( I never had any doubt that I wouldn’t) I set to work on my project.. Upon the advise of my counsel. I ‘laid low’ , I didn’t tweet, post on my blog, or answer parent’s emails that were questioning what happened because they heard I was escorted out. I put my energies into the task at hand, developing a Social Studies- LA unit. As you may have guessed I decided to develop a unit based on the Bill of Rights, specifically the First Amendment.I knew I would be vindicated so I did what I was instructed to do.
As I was completing my task, just before 3 PM I received a phone call from the District Superintendent. He informed me that he filed a report with the New York State Education Department and that they have cleared me. I was now welcome to go back to my school on Monday.
Last night as I was answering parent e-mails that I put aside during this ordeal, I discovered that parents thought I was arrested! You see my students went home upset, and one thing led to another.
Hopefully my student’s parents will find their way to this blog, the rumors will end, and my reputation will be made whole. I look forward to teaching my students the importance of the First Amendment and how you should never allow anyone to take your rights away.