I liked a blog I read this morning. It was written by a TFA teacher who came into teaching with a low opinion of tenure. He (and I think it is a he because of the name of his blog) came into teaching sympathetic to the Michelle Rhee claim that tenure is only for the lazy and that real teachers don’t care about it.
But after three years of teaching, he expected to win tenure. Unfortunately, the Bloomberg administration was pressuring principals and superintendents to be parsimonious in granting tenure, so his own tenure was denied for a year. It was denied not because of his teaching (he writes), but because the principal had not done enough observations.
This blog reminds us that it is up to principals to make the tenure decision. Teachers don’t grant themselves tenure. Teachers’ unions don’t grant tenure. Principals grant tenure. If there are “bad” teachers, it is because a principal awarded them tenure.
This blog also reminds us that tenure is not a guarantee of lifetime employment, as so many in the media and in elected office assume, but a guarantee of due process, a guarantee of a hearing before one can be fired. Hearing the evidence against you before getting fired is not exactly un-American.
It is always a hopeful sign when TFA teachers realize that teaching is a career, not just a stepping stone for Ivy Leaguers who want to win a plum job at a hedge fund or want a fast track to becoming state commissioner of education with minimal experience. It is also a hopeful sign when TFAers recognize that there is a reason for teacher tenure, and it is not about protecting bad teachers.
When there are enough dissident TFA corps members, we will begin to see a real change in the national dialogue as these bright and articulate teachers start talking back to those who put them into the job.