Teacher tenure is for good apples too, writes Arthur Goldstein in the New York Daily News.
A career-switching friend lost his teaching job after asking why his special-ed students weren’t getting the help they’d been promised, writes Goldstein. He didn’t have tenure.
Without tenure, I’d probably be in Harry’s place. I teach English as a second language, usually to beginners, at Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows, Queens.
One year, I had two students who spoke English but couldn’t read or write. One had been kicking around city schools for years.
He had a strategy for pushy teachers like me. He listened intently and participated orally as much as possible. But when I sat him down and wrote words like “mother” and “house,” he could not decode them at all. I contacted his mother, who knew of his problem. I sought help in the building.
Around this time, I read an article in the paper about ESL. I called the writer to comment. The story of my illiterate students came up, and he asked me if he could write about it. I wasn’t sure. He asked me whether I had tenure. I told him I did; he said it shouldn’t be a problem.
After the writer asked the city Education Department about my two students, I was immediately summoned into the principal’s office. He heartily condemned my ingratitude.
He was “scrutinized constantly,” but couldn’t be fired, writes Goldstein, a union chapter leader.
Teaching “entails advocating for our students, your kids, whether or not the administration is comfortable with it,” he writes. Without tenure, teachers who stand up for their students will take a huge risk.
Only the bad apples need tenure, responds RiShawn Biddle on Dropout Nation. “It’s admirable that Goldstein looks out for the kids in his care,” but “he is already covered under New York State’s civil service law, which provides rather reasonable protections against unfair dismissals.”