Robin Lowry, Ph.D.
Health and Physical Education Teacher
Good Evening. I am here to speak for teachers at Wister unable to attend. What’s on my mind? My career. I’ve spent 22 years teaching in my Germantown neighborhood, but now that Site Selection is open I wonder, without knowing what will happen at Wister next year, let alone the year after that, should I go to a school that has no chance of closing?
Unlike the Vergara case suggests, my low income students are not making me want to leave, nor seniority, or Site Selection options. Rather it is the untenable situation of teaching today – uncertain job, insufficient supports for students, huge classes with kids at ALL LEVELS. 33 traumatized kids in a room. In fact it was not acceptable to say poverty and trauma had any effect on student achievement until Charter schools started to say it. But now that they struggle to make achievement strides too they talk of TRAUMA so we can too now.
Wister students come from difficult situations with the increasing numbers of homeless shelters and transitional housing in our neighborhood. These children come to school with almost unmanageable behaviors and needs.
At Wister we are testing. Walls are bare. Halls no longer have student work displayed. Bulletin boards are covered. No movement unattended by an adult, PE classes held in classrooms of untested grades. All book bags and coats in the auditorium. This is testing after the scandal of cheating in the nation. Kids are treated like cheaters. Not even motivational posters allowed. A picture of the President – nope. Pictures of swimming babies in my PE classroom – nope.
Will this year’s testing show Wister students achieving? As we learned on January 28th it doesn’t matter. As long as Wister is home to public sector workers it must be failing because only private managers know how to run schools. Will students try hard? I had a conversation with my HYPE (Health You Positive Energy) club last week about testing and the Wister situation. One 5th grader told me. “Some kids said it doesn’t matter if you do a good job at Wister since you’re just going to Mastery anyway.” Other students with siblings and friends already at Mastery say they are worried because of the bullying that goes on there and the way teachers embarrass you if you don’t know an answer. Basically, if you don’t like Mastery they are going to make you. They are worried.
But I don’t bring students here to say negative things about Mastery even though Mastery does this to us. At Wister we try to stop bullying and insults. Mastery encourages bullying by students and supporters of Wister’s parents and students. At the March meeting a parent of 2 of my current students, in a blue Mastery shirt, told me to my face I wasn’t a good teacher and she insulted a parent’s hair.
Why does the SRC and District condone Mastery’s bullying behavior? If the adults in charge use parents and children to bully others into believing Mastery Schools are doing great and are joyful places like their Mission States what must it be like in their schools when they need kids to be good and do well on tests to make their case? We should all have Zero Tolerance for bullying in and out of school.