A YouTube video showing a frustrated teacher quitting over her involuntary transfer from a Highland Park, Ill., grade school by the North Shore School District 112 is now causing quite a stir after she aired a damning list of problems with the district's administration and how students are being educated.
"This year alone, I have been a helpless witness as half a dozen dedicated, hardworking teachers were reduced to tears, shame and desperation because an administrator decided they disliked them for some arbitrary reason," said former Lincoln School fourth grade teacher Ellie Rubenstein in the video posted on YouTube last Tuesday with the title "In Pursuit of Happiness."
"These devoted employees were handed concern forms filled with false accusations and no opportunity for discussion was provided. They then received a less-than-glowing evaluation with no recourse or opportunity for appeal or dialogue — they were told their contracts were not being renewed," explained the 15-year teaching veteran who chose to quit rather than remain in a group of three teachers recommended for involuntary transfers.
"I was proud to say I am a teacher, but over the past 15 years I've experienced the depressing gradual downfall and misdirection of education that has slowly eaten away at my love of teaching," said Rubenstein in the video. "Everything I loved about teaching is extinct."
In a Chicago Tribune report last Friday, David Behlow, North Shore School District 112 Superintendent, said the transfers were the district's effort at cleaning up Lincoln School's problematic work environment from which three principals have left in the last four years.
"When we look at those exit interviews from the principals, there is a pattern of a negative school climate," said Behlow in the report. He further explained that there is "difficulty among the adults on that staff getting along with each other and forming a collaborative teacher-principal culture to move the school forward and best serve the needs of our children."
But about a dozen parents who watched Rubenstein's complaint on YouTube were dissatisfied with that explanation and protested the transfers at a district board meeting last Thursday.
"If that's the case, I can't believe I learned about it just now," said David Seidman, a parent of two Lincoln School students. "This house is very much divided, and I don't know how it's going to stand again."
Rubenstein, however, provided a different response to the school district's allegation of creating a difficult work environment.
"The truth is, I am just not a 'yes' man …This inhumane and insensitive transfer is an attempt to silence my voice," she said. "I have to get out before my sense of self and self-worth is completely obliterated … unless you are a 'yes' man, you will soon find out your only choice is to become one or leave."
Among some of the other problems she highlights in the video is the shift from fostering academic and personal growth in students and teachers to a demand for "uniformity and conformity."
She also pointed out that "raising students' test scores on standardized tests is now the only goal, and in order to achieve it the creativity, flexibility and spontaneity … have been eliminated."
Up to Wednesday morning, Rubenstein's video had been viewed nearly half a million times and it has received an outpouring of support from teachers, students and the general public identifying with her frustration.
"Wow. As a teacher myself, I am so saddened by what is happening to our beloved calling. I write the legislators in my state regularly (where many of the horrible decisions and funding cuts are being made)," wrote Laura Doran in her comments on the video. "I am sickened by everyone saying how wonderful teachers are, only to then turn their backs, cut funding and treat us the way they do. I am sad for you. But more so, I am sad for the children who will no longer have such an amazing teacher standing before them. Thank you for your years of service."
"Thank you for your voice, the world needs to hear the truth. The teacher-student connection must not be ignored and neither should the lack of support. I'll bet you were an amazing teacher, blessings to you and your daughters always! One love," wrote another commenter, Anna Fisher.