Waianae Intermediate is hitting critical mass
I AM quitting my job. I have been an eighth-grade teacher at the same school on the Waianae Coast for 10 years, doing my best to teach English. I don't think I am doing very good job this year, therefore, I've decided to change my career for a while. If I do go back to teaching, it will be at a school that has established an English curriculum, requirements for behavior and concern about classroom conditions. Did you assume all public, tax-supported schools had those things? Wrong.
I have 31 eighth-graders in my classroom. I can teach 31 students; that is not the problem. The problem is, I have zero grammar books with which to teach. I have zero literature books from which students can read a short piece and then reflect and answer questions. I have zero workbooks in which students can keep track of their progress. Is this acceptable?
Several years ago, when I was told of the possibility of our school being restructured, I was thrilled. I envisioned inspectors and supervisors and all types of academic experts strolling around our campus, guiding us to a better way and being concerned for our students. I was wrong. We have fewer visitors than ever, and if someone does visit, he or she is just like us -- no clue what's going on. What about our permanent on-site supervisor? District keeps our principal tied up at so many mandatory meetings, he doesn't have a chance to walk the campus or visit classrooms.
OUR SCHOOL is now under restructuring, and I'm told that means we are directed precisely what and how to teach. Our students hand in constructed responses every few weeks, the topics of which are even dictated. Based on the quality of these writings, the state determines if the school is doing its job. It is all very confusing. Sometimes I grade my students' responses; sometimes other teachers grade them. There is no standard method to determine who grades them. Of course, better scores do not equate to better learning. If the state wants better scores, we can certainly give it better scores, because, after all, we're doing the grading. Is this how we take care of our children?
COME AND visit my classroom sometime. Come see that my students are just as intelligent and deserving of maintained facilities as students in other areas. Take care not to come during the warm months, though -- my classroom is a 20-year-old "temporary" classroom, the kind designed to be cooled by Hawaii's trade winds. There are louvered windows on two sides of the room, but one side has large sheets of plywood nailed over the louvers. I'm told it was done to deter thieves.
Of course, if thieves were to break in they would probably get stuck on one of the hundreds of gum spots on the floor (like many of the other rules without consequences, a "no gum" rule is merely a recommendation). Many of the floor tiles have come off; a large portion of my classroom floor is unpainted plywood. The up side is that most of the time the floor goes unnoticed, because six of my 12 fluorescent lights don't work. Is this our way of showing concern for education?
One more thing, if and when you visit, please don't bring any small children as they will most likely be subjected to extremely vulgar language and behavior. Eleven- and 12-year-old boys and girls screaming the "F" word at each other, and then glaring at any adult in defiance, is so common that it mostly goes unnoticed. Is this how we help young people to become respectable citizens?
PERHAPS you find all of this appalling, and are wondering who is to blame. We are to blame -- the governor, the Department of Education, the district, the principal, the teachers, parents and, of course, the students.
What am I doing about it? I am moving on to a different career. What can you do about it? Call the governor and your political representatives and let them know the children of the Waianae Coast deserve better.
Kriss Conley is a teacher at Waianae Intermediate School.