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* Editors note: Last week WHEC 10 published and article titled Absences High Among RCSD Teachers. The article went viral and received much criticism by the community for its misrepresentation of the facts, implicit bias against teachers, and allusion of chronic absenteeism by RCSD teachers . The article used a photo of former RCSD teacher Chris Widmaier. After the backlash two days later, the title of the article was changed to: RCSD reviewing heavy use of substitute teachers.
Since they used my picture and video from my classroom as an example of the kind of teacher that is exhibiting a high rate of absenteeism (never mind the fact I’ve been absent for the last year and half because I left the Rochester City School District) I feel like I should respond with my own thoughts. I also feel like I should respond because our community needs to just plain stop buying into the lazy RCSD teacher narrative as the reason our school system is the way it is.
I wish they hadn’t used my picture for this story and I wish teachers didn’t have to defend how hard they are working over and over again.
**Update Channel 10 took down the video and the screenshot with my image after I shared these thoughts with the station. I received the following response from the station director:
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I removed the video from the web story. There are a lot of layers when it comes to absenteeism in any school district. Especially in a school district as big as the RCSD. Sick calls is just one layer. You bring up a lot of critical points which needed to be researched for a story like this. I will be following up with team who put the story together.”
I appreciate their actions after the fact but it would be much better if they reported compassionately to begin with
Email their news director advocating for better quality reporting and less shaming of RCSD teachers
An enthusiastic Rochesterian, Chris Widmaier has served as an instructional coach and science educator in the Rochester City School District in Rochester, NY. for 13 years and was a founding member of the Rochester Regional Teacher Empowerment Network. He received the Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2016. His work as an educator focuses on deeper learning, teacher leadership and student empowerment in and out of the classroom. As a community member he focuses on building equity and opportunity. He is currently studying at Rochester Institute of Technology in the Saunders Business School with the goal of creating opportunities for everyone to develop deeper connections with their world and those around them.
Photo credit: Tolerance.org