Failure to Perform: Teachers Who Cannot Teach

What if I told you that sometimes teachers continue to work that truly do not belong in the classroom? That failure to perform in the classroom really does exist?

I continue to watch a colleague work who has no apparent memory of things that I tell her or email her. These important pieces of information include requirements for providing Extended School Year services to children amongst other things. Without documentation, we cannot help these children. So when I forward a reminder that the list of children who require ESY services need to give to our Director at the end of the month and she states that she thinks a student may need it but doesn’t know the requirements, my blood boils. I sent the email two months ago, and it’s in our manual and she’s probably taught longer than I have. The requirements don’t change.

Don’t worry, I did what I could. The only thing I could do. I sent the information to my supervisor. But here’s the kicker: the process of eliminating teachers who cannot or do not do their jobs appropriating is astoundingly difficult. You cannot just fire a teacher. Not for something like this. You cannot just fire a teacher, even, for failing to complete a reevaluation on time. That has happened as well. You cannot just fire a teacher for failing to put the paperwork in folders or close/verify documents in a timely manner. You cannot just fire a teacher for putting students on computers to teach themselves to learn instead of providing direct instruction as a special education teacher (apparently), even though it happens on a daily basis.

In order to fire a teacher in North Carolina, you must make it crystal clear to the teacher what they did wrong, show them how to do it right, and give them an opportunity to fix it. Maybe the process to allow a teacher to fix the problem is arduous. Maybe each problem that arises means allowing the teacher a chance to fix it. We’re talking about a teacher with tenure, after all. But, I feel for the students who must endure this process. Every time I write an IEP for a student who requires additional services, and we put them in that classroom, I think, “what a pointless class to put this student in.”

It’s not that the teacher doesn’t mean well. She has a caring heart. She’s a sweet person. She wants the students to succeed. But somewhere along the way, this person got lost. Maybe it’s the fault of the system which pushed us too far. There certainly are days that I feel a bit lost like I’m spinning my wheels, and I wonder if I’ll become disorganized, chaotic, and loopy too. I simply do not have time to plan at school. I spend too much time at home doing what I should do at school but can’t because I prep for 5 classes plus a social skills group with 60 minutes of planning time and only one of those classes has just one grade level in it. That means I’m prepping for 3 multi-grade level classes  per day, 1 8th grade language arts class, 1 multi-curriculum class, and a social skills group, with just 1 60 minute planning period in which I must also get my paperwork done as a special education teacher who prepares for I.E.P. meetings. I’m not afraid to say without blinking that I work harder than any other teacher at the school as far as prep work for classes goes, because there’s only one other teacher that prepares as many classes with multi-grade level work as I do, and she’s got teacher assistants to help (I do not).

What if I get lost in the rabbit hole? What if I become one of these lost teachers, even though I mean well? How easy would it be to not get enough sleep and fail to perform?

In the meantime, I worry about the state of the children I teach that go to teachers who go to teachers now who cannot teach. But then I wonder, “Who’s fault is it?”

I guess that’s a judgment call, right?




Photo of author


I'm Jethro. I'm a carpenter, and love to build things! You can find me in the garage or at work most days of the week.My sister is Crystal, who you might know from this very blog. Her son Johnny loves video games just as much as I do - so we have a lot of fun playing together!

4 comments on “Failure to Perform: Teachers Who Cannot Teach”

  1. I think there are a whole lot of sides to this story. I’m not going to defend anyone, but I’ll tell you what happened to me: I was not tenured and the principal decided he didn’t want me there anymore, despite glowing references from parents and co-workers. I was put on an improvement plan and jumped through his hoops for the entire year. HE did not uphold his end of the bargain and I was left with no contract. That was almost ten years ago. I have since found a new job that I love, but it’s not in a classroom. I will always wonder if I could have made it without his interference.

    • I wish I felt comfortable enough to divulge the whole story here. I do not. I don’t double that what happened to you happens, because I know it does. Abuse of power happens everywhere. I don’t think any power has been used in this case at all to deal with the issue at hand until this year and it’s been dealt with extremely sensitively. I work for a county where everyone knows everyone and things get tip-toed around a lot. That’s probably another issue entirely. I moved into the county, so I’m an outsider. Things are different for me… Anyway, “where everybody knows your name…” Maybe not such a great thing–your reputation, your name, and everything that goes with it follows you everywhere. I think part of the reason the situation outlined above doesn’t get dealt with or gets dealt with very, very, very slowly and quietly is because of the county reputation.

Leave a Comment