When a teacher I know recently told me what it was like to substitute teach at Woodrow Wilson High, I was taken aback. Woodrow enjoys a reputation as a bright spot in DISD. That reputation didn’t jibe with the teacher’s experience. So I asked the teacher to describe in writing what happened. This is only one person’s take, but it would concern me if I had a kid at Woodrow.
My Day at Woodrow
If you have kids in school, they’ve had or will have a “sub.” And in DISD, they are the least-appreciated but very essential group of people. With a master’s degree, decades of successful teaching, years of being a mentor-teacher, I earn $90 per day before deductions. When I choose to sub, I don’t babysit; I teach.
When I saw Woodrow Wilson HS needed a sub in my elective area, I chose to accept the assignment because I’d read so much positive PR about the “Gem of DISD.” I was in for a shock.
After a lengthy wait in the office, I was released to the classroom. It turns out the teacher had retired months before and administrators decided not to hire a full-time teacher. Only substitutes had been used. They are much cheaper. The kids were rude and out of control, angry that I expected them to participate in a lesson that I happened to bring with me. Most were texting and/or listening to iPods; the rest were yelling at each other. Worse than that was the classroom itself: totally savaged, filthy, trash thrown everywhere, drawers and cabinets broken open with junk falling out. Water snaked across the floor from a broken water fountain. The ceiling was partially caved in from long-time roof leaks. There were no books, no materials, just some paper.
Kids told me they earned 100% if they did any classwork, a zero for no work, no grade in between. Who gave them a grade, with no teacher? Is there a two-tier school? I don’t know, but I saw maybe six Anglo students out of five big classes. And three of those six left the classroom (“We always go”) to practice for the musical play.
I spent two hours trying to clean the room during planning time, and piled up enough trash to fill an outside bin. A student asked, “Why did you bother? Nobody cares.” During passing time in the corridor, sagging, bagging, swearing, and electronics were rampant. District policy about such was ignored by students and adults alike.
Maybe only some electives get so totally ignored; I’m sure AP English models exemplary attention. But as a teacher, a parent, and a taxpayer, I was appalled and discouraged by my day at Woodrow. What was good about the experience? A friendly secretary, a really nice teachers’ lounge.
But DISD’s gem is made of plastic.