Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Brannen leaves Dobie after 22 years 8/6/87

After teaching 22 years one of Dobie's original teachers has moved into another field. 

"I left at a time in my life when I can still consider it," said Ann Brannen, former English and journalism teacher who taught at Dobie for 18 years. 

She said she gradually became "disillusioned with education over the past few years, but would have never considered leaving if is had not been for an offer with an insurance agency. 

Brannen feels that students have gradually changed during her years in teaching. "Kids have so many home problems now," she said. "It is often very difficult for them to concentrate on school.

What I really thing changed was the attitudes at home. I could stand in front of my classes and tell."

Brannen said that some values have been "tarnished" and that kids today need to "touch bases with their parents more."

One of her biggest students-related problems as a teacher was those on drugs.

I couldn't stand the drugs," she said, "You cannot reason with someone on drugs."

Drug abuse is one of the major problems with kids today and thus is also a major problem in the educational system, she said. 

Despite these feelings, Brannen said she still would have stayed had it not been for the problems brought about by the recent education reform by the Texas Legislature. 

"I don't like what they did from above," she said. "The Legislature always knew best." Though not the only reason she left, it was "a big deciding factor," she said.

The things she objected to most strongly were the evaluation system and the career ladder. The career ladder is a system that pays bonuses to the teachers accodring to their evaluation by the principal and his assistants. 

"You simply can't judge a teacher's ability to get an idea across to students. How can you judge that?" she asked. 

She added that the current four-hour per year evaluation system is not enough to fairly evaluate a teacher's performance. 

The career ladder has caused dissension in the teaching ranks, she said. "The trouble began when they started ranking us," she said. "You cannot build team spirit in that kind of situation."
Another facet of the reforms with which Brannen takes issue is the evaluation procedure itself. She things teachers are graded on too many things that are irrelevant to teaching ability. 

She said the evaluation seemed to focus mainly on organization and the condition of the room, etc. While admitting to her need to be more organized, she said "some of the best discussions came on days when we didn't do anything."

Brannen said she feels that education needs to go "back to the basics."

"A lot of teachers are independent and they need to teach in the manner in which they feel best suits them.

Money is also one of the big problems, said Brannen. "Teaching is a lot about money." She said that many school districts have grown too fast and simply do not have the money to provide for their students.

She wants to see more money put into education. "I believe you get what you pay for," she said.

She does feel, however, that the money is bring spent in the wrong areas.

II feeli like the state wanted to more money into education and to justify it they created the career lasser," she said.

Despite the feelings that caused her to leave, Brannen remains upbeat about her years in teaching and said she has no regrets. "It was wonderful," she said. "I will always think I was privileged to teach kids."

She also still has strong ties with Dobie. "I'll still be a part of Dobie. It will always be my school," she said. "It was very hard to leave."

She also said she "felt privileged to work in PISD."

And her hopes remain that the Legislature does not lose sight of the basic goal of education. 

"I always thought we were there for the kids," she said. 

Former students laud Brannen for her efforts with students. Travis McCulley, a 1978 Dobie graduate, said "she was the first person to take an interest in me, the first person to really tap my potential."

He defended her somewhat unorthodox method of teaching by saying "many say she was easy and undisciplined, but she allowed us to set our own goals and then made us live up to them."

"She was not concerned with keeping us busy. She was concerned with what we were doing."

McCulley said she was different on "a personal level and that made a difference."

"My needs were not special," he said, "I needed to feel I belonged, she made me feel worthwhile."

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