A Teacher’s Battle
A Teacher’s Battle
Broward County Public School veteran teacher recounts story of bullying and harassment by administrators and the district
By Nichole Richards
Part 1 of 3
A new school year has begun and students (and their parents) are slowly easing back into their scholastic routines and busy schedules. This time of year in America the media obsesses over the first day of school, overwhelming the public with back-to-school must-have advertisements.
It can be particularly distressing to families who really struggle to afford supplies and clothing/ uniforms for their children. And there are more of these families than one thinks.
There is another group that may strangely dread this time a year albeit for different reasons: Teachers.
They are paid abysmal salaries, operate under an immense amount of pressure, and deal with a host of issues both in and out of the classroom. Administrators, too, deal with unrealistic school accountability measures and expectations with a dwindling supply of resources, particularly in Black and Brown neighborhoods. This can breed an interesting dynamic between administrators and teachers that can boil over into bullying tactics and ousters all in the name of performance and accountability.
To be clear, teachers are accountable for everything, good and bad. If a student excels, it was due to the excellent teaching ability of the instructor and, sometimes, he or she is rewarded. If a student (or students) refuses to study and scores low on important standardize tests, the teacher is deemed absolutely ineffective and, most assuredly, he or she will be penalized. Penalization manifests in a variety of forms, from administrative warnings to termination and can be particularly soul shocking to an educator in love with their craft. Ask any K-12 educator, new or veteran, how this has transformed the relationship between teacher and student. It is the student’s performance during one week of testing that determines the trajectory of their careers. That’s an awful lot of power for a child to hold. Visit any school during this vital week in the spring and the pressure, stress, and anxiety is palpable.
Despite this reality, there still exist educators completely committed to the learning process, willing to endure the constant barrage of stressors, changing policies, and shifting procedures because they love the children. But, unfortunately, gone are the days where the children are priority in the American public educational system. Today, it is all about the school as a business, concerned with customer satisfaction (parents) as competition stiffens and grows (charter schools). Administrators operate under the demands of their districts and become pre-occupied with validating the purpose and value of their schools or risk closure and the lost of their own jobs. Thus, administrators can go to extreme lengths to “keep up appearances” of a well-functioning educational machine as students’ academic abilities sink lower and lower with every passing year.
This is the foundation of the increasingly hostile relationships between some teachers, who operate as child advocates, and their administrators, who increasingly operate as businessmen and community politicians.
So what happens to the teacher who dares question the misdirected concerns of their administrators and school?
Dr. Yvonne Bentley could be considered a Broward County celebrity given her educational and professional achievements. Hailing from Fort Lauderdale, Dr. Bentley is proud to be a product of Broward County Public Schools and credits her schooling experience for igniting her interest in the educational process. A star athlete in high school, Bentley sought to combine her love for learning with her passion for physical fitness, serving as a coach and Physical Education teacher for over 22 years. Within those 22 years, Dr. Bentley, a Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) graduate, received numerous honorary certificates and diplomas (including an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters), pursued a MBA, and authored 10 books. Despite being a successful entrepreneur and consultant, Dr. Bentley’s love for children never waivered and she maintained her commitment to the teaching profession. She loved teaching and was planning on retiring as a Broward Public Schools teacher.
Dr. Bentley taught and coached at a number of public and private Broward schools, including Boyd Anderson, Re-deeming Word Christian Academy, Crystal Lake Middle School, and Millennium Middle School. Her 22 years as an educator has garnered many stories of high and low moments throughout her career.
“I taught for 22 years and was planning on retirement,” Bentley stressed, “But they took my life and everything I worked for just because I wasn’t the right fit.”
I met Dr. Yvonne Bentley among other Black educators and personnel in early spring of this year. As a former teacher (8th grade United States History), I am always eager to discuss my short-lived experience in the classroom with other educators. It had been a rewarding, but equally challenging experience of which I bowed out of with humility and a new sense of admiration for those who choose to make teaching a career. Teachers truly are our community’s most unsung heroes. A class-room can be a battlefield nowadays.
Unfortunately, these educators did not recount stories of the joys of teaching but the emotional bullying they all endured at the hands of their administrators. Though all were Black, they stressed these tactics crossed racial and gendered lines multiple times over and had become rampant throughout the county. The single thread that did tie their stories together was their veteran statuses as teachers. All had individually taught for over 20 years on multiple levels, from preschool to college. They were accomplished and experienced professionals ousted from their respective schools due to their “veteran” status.
“Some principals, particularly new ones, don’t like the older teachers,” our sources explained, “They want to clear out the ‘old guard’. Older teachers are typically more invested in the school, community, and their careers and have their ideas and opinions, but administrators are usually more interested in starting fresh with their new processes and policies without pushback.”