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Bruno: Why I'm Teaching At A Charter School

3580691356_e676e97a29_mAs some of you may recall, a little over a year ago I relocated from the Bay Area to Southern California, and then lost my new job on SoCal for seniority-related reasons.

(Teacher seniority does not generally transfer between districts, although years of experience usually will for determining salary.)

This meant I went back on the job market in February. That's pretty early to start looking for a job for the fall, so for several months the "job hunt" didn't really consist of much except a submission of my application to Los Angeles Unified's district-level hiring pool.

That started to change in May, when middle school science jobs began appearing online. Consistently - and unsurprisingly - those first jobs were almost exclusively in charter schools.

I began applying, and started to hear back - again, from charter schools - on May 28.

The very first middle school science position in a (geographically realistic) district school posted on June 18. That seems like a reasonable date to start finding staff for the next school year, but I received my first charter school job offer just one week later, on June 25.

All else being equal, a charter school would probably not have been my first choice. By the end of June, however, I hadn't heard back from any district schools, and there was much about this particular charter that appealed to me. They offered me classes I wanted to teach with students I wanted to work with in a school trying to undertake a number of interesting, worthwhile initiatives.

So, after some futile efforts to contact other schools I'd applied to, I took the job.

I would eventually begin hearing back from district schools. On July 23, LAUSD offered me an interview - for no school in particular - on August 26. (Classes began in LAUSD last week.)

Another school called on July 29 to schedule an interview, almost six weeks after they'd received my application.

By that time, of course, I'd already started planning for the start of the 2013-2014 school year with my new colleagues.

In other words, I'm working at a charter school because it was - by quite a wide margin - the first school that really appealed to me to offer me a job. There's really not much more to it than that. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)


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Bruno- the way that many charter schools agressively seek out and hire exceptional talent is symbolic of their freedom to think and act outside the very constrained education box. I suspect you will also find that when you have a great new idea that will positively impact the children at your school, you will be able to get it instituted without much difficulty or red tape.

In my view, the greatest problem with public education today is not that "the system is broken," rather it is that there is a system in the first place. Principals, teachers, students & parents taking ownership of their schools and accepting accountability for their own results is the recipe that has the best chance to create success.

I will tell you the absolute truth about what is WRONG with charter schools; they all get categorized together. Tiny, along with the rest of American, believe that charter schools will save what's wrong with public school districts today, at least urban public school districts. But the fact of the matter is, not all charter schools are equal. The community, and parents especially, buy into this notion that if they can get their child into a charter school everything will change and their student will now have chances and opportunities that aren't available in the public school system. But the fact of the matter, there are just as many crooked, corrupt, backwards charter schools in this country as there are public schools. It's not a blanket statement, "Charter schools are the answer." No! It doesn't matter if its a charter or a public school, what matters is what's inside the school, the teachers, the students, the PARENTS, the community, and the administration. All charters are NOT equal.

@tiny - My first three years teaching were at a district school, and I never felt that I couldn't advocate for and implement ideas I supported. There was lots of shared leadership and I don't recall feeling constrained by red tape. To the extent it was hard to implement a new initiative, that had to do with getting consensus among a large staff, but even then we were broken up into "teams" and could do a lot in smaller units. I'm new to this charter, so I can't judge it yet in the way you describe.

@Rick - Agreed.

Best of luck to you, Paul, wherever you wind up teaching.

In my fairly extensive acquaintance with working teachers, I can attest that all (as in, 100% of quite a few) the teachers that I know working in charter schools would have preferred a district school but, in a tough job market, could not find a job in one. There is an ongoing falsehood that brazenly portrays the opposite as true.

@Caroline - Thanks. My stated district school preference definitely has an "all else equal" quality to it. This being my 3rd school of employment - and with a bunch more I've interviewed with or spent time in - I'd emphasize that all else is rarely equal.

Time warp. In 1969, I applied to be a teacher in the Chicago Public School system. My (out of state) birth certificate didn't look kosher to the clerk who was to accept the application, so it did not get processed. Ended up teaching in a parochial school.

Thanks for sharing. I am a younger teacher working in New Orleans. I moved to the city and attended a traditional teacher certification program, and was proud to work for several years at a traditional public school. After some years of this, I grew exhausted by how late EVERYTHING happened. It felt like everything was cobbled together at the last minute, from staffing decisions, to course assignments, to student schedules, to discipline policies; the list could go on forever.

This year I took a job at a charter school and, as much as I miss some of the securities that came with working at my previous school, I am very pleased with my decision. Through constant feedback and a generally more supportive, organized atmosphere, I feel I have become an immeasurably better teacher over the past month.

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