A Brief Follow-up on Showing Up

I’d like to offer a few quick follow-up points on my last post about absenteeism in the profession.

The day after I posted the blog entry I was approached by several colleagues who inquired about the identity of “Ms. X”. I declined to identify who X was (for obvious professional reasons), but noted to myself that nearly half a dozen names were tossed my way as possible candidates. That’s telling.

There were also a couple of comments on that post. One came from a co-worker at my old school and one from one of the most thoughtful teachers I know, James Boutin. He said:

“I'd like more information about it. What states, districts, or schools does it happen most often in? Or do we see it pretty consistent across districts? Why are those chronic offenders chronic offenders?”

I don’t have all the data he wished for, but I was able, with some help, to locate some data on each Puget Sound District’s Educator Equity Profile.

Before clicking that link here are a few caveats:

1. The data is from 2011-2012 and I have no idea how the Tacoma Strike days are factored into Tacoma’s (seeming outlier) number, if at all.

2. The data doesn’t (as James and I both wished) give us the why of absences [PD pullout, Military Leave, unpaid leave, sick leave or even taking time off the day before one’s wedding (as I did in 2010)].

3. The data, like most data, is really only going to re-affirm what most people are already predisposed to believe.

I was also inspired this week to reflect on my own absences, the proverbial glass house. In the recent past, I have missed work to go to Olympia to speak with the editorial board of the Olympian and guest lecture at Evergreen. I have also been pulled out of my class to proctor the AP Literature exam and to meet with several the Instructional Coaches in the district. All those days would be reflected in the aggregate number the same as if I took off to go to Cancun (which I wish sometimes I had).

Lastly, I received some critical feedback (via Facebook) from two former colleagues and my State Senator, Jeannie Darneille, about the opening anecdote in the post. They thought I was letting the kid shift the blame / letting him off the hook. I didn’t see the incident that way; the story (to me at least) was more of anecdote about the moment that inspired me to write about something I have been thinking about a lot lately. In the big scheme of things, what I was trying to say was I think teachers make a difference in students lives and that better teachers make a bigger difference, but it's hard to make any difference at all if you aren't there consistently. Perhaps if I was better writer, that would have been more clear. That said, I am declaring victory in the hallway engagement with student: he has been in class everyday since the talk and I shared the blog post with him on Thursday. He made fun of me for a. having a picture of myself on my own website and b. "thinking about teaching too much."

I will own the first one and view the second as a compliment.