Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Indianapolis Public Schools: Worst School System Ever.

There are many reasons why the IPS system just flat sucks. It would take someone much more knowledgable than I to explain everything that is wrong and why it has come to be such a disgrace. So I'm going to limit myself to my own personal experiences. I could write novels about those experiences, so I'll limit myself to my experience as a substitute teacher for IPS. I could write volumes on that as well, so I'll limit myself to the first few days I had as a substitute. (To read about my first day in the classroom, be sure to visit the link at the bottom of this post. It was an amazing day.)

The reason I'm writing this post is because I read in today's paper (through IndyStar.com) that Marion County schools, and IPS in particular, are seriously lacking substitute teachers. According to the article (click here for full story), during the months of October and November, IPS left more than 1,994 classrooms without a teacher. As Superintendent Eugene White is quoted as saying, this is a "legitimate concern." I think that's a bit of an understatement, but what do I know?

It's going to take more than money and something closer to a miracle to fix this problem for IPS. Much needs to change before they will be able to find adequate substitute teachers. Let me share with you what happened when I was asked to be a substitute.

First of all, the application process was a breeze. I forget what the qualifications were, but they were easily met. My "training," if it could even be called that, lasted about half a day, where I filled out application sheets and tax papers. Nobody said what I was to expect, there was no training as far as classroom management or anything like that. I don't know what else to say, we never discussed actually teaching the kids. I'm sure they did a background check and it seems like as long as you don't have a record as a child molester, you can be an IPS substitute teacher.

Now after you've been hired, they use an automated system to let you know when an opening is available. It will call you to inform you of openings, or you can call in to see what is available. The system will go through every opening in IPS, listing the teacher's name, what they teach and what school. This allows the substitute to pick and choose which classes they want to cover. I never did any high school subbing, because I remember how we treated our subs when I was a high schooler at IPS.

After a while, you learn which schools are not worth your time, or which classes, and you can pretty much just wait till the easy ones open up and pick those. This means that the troublesome schools and classes are the ones most lacking substitutes (assuming every substitute did what I did).

Here's the scary part. When I went to my first substitute job, I had no training, no experience, no idea what to expect. When I showed up at the front door, I was obviously lost. The front office asked who I was subbing for and told me where the room was. When I got there, there was a sad excuse of a lesson plan from the teacher and that's it. Nobody came to tell me anything else. The bell rang, the kids showed up, and I was there to pretty much babysit the entire time.

It didn't take the kids long to realize that I had no clue what I was doing. One kid came up to me and said, "I need to go to the nurse to take my pills." (Kids on pills is another topic for another day. Also very sad.) Well, I had no idea if this kid was lying or not, but I sure didn't want him to miss his pills, so I let him go to the nurse. Soon, I was letting about half the class leave for one reason or another. Nobody ever said anything about not doing this. And nobody noticed in this particular situation that I let half the class leave.

I think one teacher may have stopped in to introduce herself and say she was there if I needed help. Nobody came during the day to see how I was doing. The lesson plan that was supposed to take all day took all of two hours. I had no idea what these kids were allowed to do on a normal day.

Needless to say, I was shocked at how unorganized the whole thing was. I felt like a lamb sent to fend for himself in a pack of wolves. Some classes were incredibly disrespectful and unruly. You would be amazed. Some were very well behaved. In the end, it comes down to how good your principal is, how good the teacher is, and how much the parents are involved. In IPS, I find the marjority of the parents are not involved at all.

That is where things have to start if anything is ever going to change for IPS. Until the parents start caring, nobody else is going to.

--For an in-depth look at my first day on the job, click here: "It's Yo Balls!"


Kay said...

I'm sadened by your experience. As a former elementary teacher, I spent about 4 years subbing in about 5 school districts in my area. I was in high demand because I could wing it if the teacher left cruddy plans, I could certainly discipline the children and knew what to do in most situations. However, I know that some "emergency subs" have no eduction and no clue about behaviour management.

When I did have to have a sub I left very detailed plans. I also left a packet with:"Backup ideas" tips on discipline, reasons people could leave class etc. I was never unhappy with any of my subs.

You should approach the school and ask for a 2-4 hour initiation for subs with no experience or background. Tell them the retention of their substitues would be much higher if they allowed the people with no experience to go through this mini workshop. I bet they would be impressed, implement the program and feel more comfortable with the results soon afterwards.

You'll know what they think of you if you get called back frequently to sub. (although it sounds like in your case, whoever WANTS to sub the most is going to do well with the automated system)

Best of luck.

LP said...

I work for Kelly Educational Staffing. I refused to work for IPS because of the reputation. Kelly is great you work with the Charter Schools and sometimes Greenwood and unlike IPS your orientation is a 4 hour class with a handy Substitute guide with activites for you days when you them finish early. I have always met the principal or director when I arrive and everyone is nice. The children are very well behaved but like most kids they are talkative. I worked with the HS kids once and well I tend to stick to the littler kids they respond better. If your still interested in subbing check them out. You can email me at wywhite@gmail.com if you want more info.

Nat said...

I agree with everything you just said, and I'd like the add that the some of the charter schools aren't much better. As a sub, I have been physically attacked and had large objects thrown at me in the Charters. Lesson plans are mostly a joke, and most days I leave just grateful that I don't have to work with the kids everyday. There are some truly wonderful kids out there and I'm sad that they are lost in this sea of chaos in our schools.