Response to John Bracey’s Report

Robert Harrell tried to post a response to John Bracey’s situation but it didn’t post so here it is as an article. I’m glad it didn’t post, because Robert’s comment is something each and every one of us should read if we are going to teach this way. What I laughed off as a bunch of loonies around John (you have to read his report from the field from last night to understand Robert’s comment) is not funny, and below Robert tells us why:

Ben, the situation is not funny at all. It is obviously a concerted attack on a good teacher, and the crowning stroke is the “needs improvement” evaluation.

John, if any sort of negative evaluation is placed in your file, you have the right to respond. I suggest that you write a letter of response, get letters of support and approbation from the parents, and document as much as possible the meetings and statements (especially the false statements made to others) that have occurred. Get as much information as you can from people who were there, and get them to attest to it in writing. Make copies and insist that all of this be placed in your personnel file. Then check up to make certain that it was done. If necessary go to the personnel / human resources office at the district. Get your union representative involved, especially as you document the unprofessional behavior of others, particularly your administrator. This is an egregious and concerted attack on a teacher and cannot go unchallenged. I wish you the best of luck.

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10 thoughts on “Response to John Bracey’s Report”

  1. Thank you Robert. Upon reflection I see that this is actually a not so disguised form of teacher abuse. I have never heard of a bunch of teachers getting away with openly belittling a colleague in this way. Having met John this summer, I can attest to the fact that he is so capable and just plain talented that he naturally floated above the situation, but many of us wouldn’t have. I certainly wouldn’t have. I would have had a kind of mini or not so mini nervous breakdown over this had it happened to me, which thankfully it never did but came close a few times. So John I side with Robert on this and challenge you to do exactly what Robert says. You won’t get another opportunity.

  2. Thanks for starting this thread Ben and thank you Robert for your extremely thoughtful and helpful response. Your genuine care and support really makes a big difference.

    To clarify, the “needs improvement” label was only given to me in the sub-category of “professionalism” in our evaluation rubric. Overall I scraped by with a “proficient” rating which is what I needed to gain Professional Teacher Status (aka tenure). So fortunately I was able to avoid the most dire consequences.

    Unfortunately…two out of my three possible evaluators this year are my department head and my principal. That is a pretty scary prospect. I am going to take your advice and document everything I possibly can and to be sure to respond to these sorts of things when they pop up in my evaluations. I’m also tight with the head of our union so I can talk to him about how to handle this situation.

    Thank you again for helping me realize how screwed up this situation is. I didn’t realize it myself until I wrote the whole story out. Getting advice from all you grizzled veterans of such battles is truly a gift ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. John please let us know how the union head reacts to this when you bring it up with him. A “needs improvement” in the Professionalism category is something that, having met you this summer and hearing about the great numbers your Latin classes are enjoying, and knowing that you went out of your way to attend a conference (Denver, can’t remember but weren’t you in Chicago as well?) and try something new, all that doesn’t sound unprofessional. What IS unprofessional is how these goons treated a colleague. Reach out to us on this. I bet there would be no lack of helping hands in mounting your argument, and supporting it with letters, etc. We do have a lot of voices in this community, and judging from the reactions of others, we could cause a ruckus if we wanted to. You have our total support as you move forward.

  4. I agree with the sentiment that this whole story would be funny if it weren’t true. I’m sure it’s not uncommon that progressive teachers get abused (and it is abuse when one’s livelihood is at stake, not to mention professional self esteem) at the hands of traditional teachers who would rather destroy the career of a young teacher than recognize the need for change in their own work. It happened to a Latin colleague of ours, who ended up working with Bob Patrick in GA. Admins should not be swayed by an irrational mob (be they parents or teachers) that is opposed to best practices for students. I would definitely be in constant communication with the union rep and admins who have your back (and hopefully there are a few at your school/district), in order to make sure that you are not in any way seen as the “cause” of these problems. On the contrary, your willingness to stand up for all your students (not just the 4%ers), was what brought out all this nastiness. Catalyst and cause are two very different things, even if some want to conflate the two.

    Stay strong, keep doing your work in the classroom everyday, but definitely make those administrative connections to make sure this does not reflect on you in any negative way. It was great hanging out with you at IFLT and I know you’ll continue to inspire your students.

    1. Thanks for the great advice, John. I too had a blast getting to know you at iFLT this summer. I do need to continue to bolster my support system within my district. I need to make sure that I have substantial allies in my district who would be willing to stand by me if things get that nuts again.

      I was hoping that my approach to homework would at most lead to some lively discussions. I never thought it would lead to pitchforks and torches. The angry mob will likely target my CI practices next, but thanks to you all, I will much better prepared.

      I’ll write a post soon about how my first few weeks of CI Latin have gone. *Spoiler Alert* I adore TCI.

  5. John, all of this doesn’t come as much surprise after what we discussed in Denver. I am so heartsick for you and pray for a quick, overwhelming resolution in your favor.

    Is it possible for you to give no homework without saying to anyone that you are giving no homework? I don’t want you to be false to yourself, but I do want to keep you safe. You don’t even need to say it to your students.

    1. James, I really appreciate your kind wishes. It was great talking to you about these sorts of thing in Denver.

      You have the right idea about how I should deal with homework. I should just simply not assign homework and avoid drawing attention to myself. Part of the problem last year was that I didn’t realize that my colleagues had singled me out as the scapegoat for their own decreased enrollment. I strongly believe that no one would have cared if they hadn’t lobbied so hard against me. However, If I had never uttered the phrase “no homework” I probably could have avoided a lot of this mess.

  6. Thank you so much, Ben, for your willingness to get behind me on this if it gets uglier. I’ll keep you updated on how things progress. Hopefully it won’t escalate to that level. So far I have been left alone, but I suspect that things will get crazy again if enrollment continues to trend my way. But the support of PLC is making it much easier for me to keep a positive attitude at work. Knowing that my views on education are shared by this group of insanely wonderful teachers, prevents me from feeling insane ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. John – Just following along and want you to know there’s another person thinking of you. I’m sure combating the unprofessional attack from these other so-called co-workers is not on your list of a great time, but I hope that you are able to do something to protect yourself, your job security, and your name.

    I feel like this could happen to anyone.

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