Sep 26, 2011

A Teacher Discusses Her Experience With LIFO [Or, blah blah, I'm Great, Blah, LIFO]

Callie Hammond was a teacher in the Philadelphia School District before she was laid off because of the "last in, first out" (LIFO) policy. She is now working to start a nonprofit organization, Library Build, which will renovate and staff public school libraries. Callie attended an event with Michelle Rhee in Philadelphia Thursday evening in which teachers discussed LIFO and other education reform issues.

I became a teacher after working as a social worker in a Philadelphia school. I was amazed at what the children in this school dealt with: lack of resources, a desperate need for attention and after-school activities. I wanted to work with them face-to-face, rather than from an office, so I joined the Philadelphia Teaching Fellows and began a journey which has kept me dedicated to, and motivated by, education reform.

I worked in a middle school as a social studies and science teacher to all English language learners in the sixth grade. My students were vivacious, caring, and often, frustrating. But their ability to transcend race and ethnicity to form friendships was truly inspiring. During my short time with them, I engaged my students in reading and understanding The Diary of Anne Frank. I hope that they keep the messages in the book with them as they grow and become adults in Philadelphia.

When I was laid off by the school district, I was not shocked. The word had been circulating for some time that the district's budget crisis was insurmountable. It caused many excellent, new teachers to worry about their futures. A new math teacher in my school, who I greatly admired for her ability to make math creative and for her patience with the 30 students in her room, was laid off for the second time in two years because of the "last in, first out" policy. She was dedicated to the children of the Philadelphia School District, but she admitted to me that getting laid off every year only to wonder about the possibility of being called back over the summer was becoming too much of a struggle.

Many others who I trained with through The New Teacher Project were also motivated and hard-working individuals. A co-teacher during my student teaching experience had moved herself and her young daughter to Philadelphia from Indiana in order to serve Philadelphia's students. She was laid off as well, despite serving students with severe autism.

As the Philadelphia School District continues to evolve and develop after tumultuous recent events, it is important for our legislators to understand the need for reform of the "last in, first out" policy. In speaking last night with the educators of Philadelphia, Michelle Rhee pointed out that most new teachers serve in the most underserved of schools. The "last in, first out" policy ensures that these students, the most underserved, lose many, if not most, of their teachers when lay-offs occur.

I'm glad Students First is working to change this and helping to ensure that someone speaks not just for teachers, but also for the most underserved of our public school students.

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