Remember when we actually appreciated the work of our teachers? I don’t even know how to begin to respond to this whole collective bargaining issue here in Wisconsin and around the country, the massive teacher lay-offs that happen every year, the constant budget cuts for already cash-strapped school districts, and the “well teachers get summers off” argument. Why do we hold our teachers personally responsible for the ills of society?
We blame teachers for low test scores and work to put them on merit-based pay tied solely to the test results of their students. Forget the fact that these tests tend to be culturally biased, promote a negative teaching-to-the-test environment in a classroom, and don’t always assess important knowledge. Tests should be one small factor in determining what student should know and what they have learned.
We blame teachers for poorly behaved children. If only those teachers had more interesting curriculum, our children would be better behaved and our school wouldn’t have so many behavioral problems. Forget about parental accountability, teachers are to blame. Forget about the overall school culture as established by the principal and other administrators.
We blame teachers for our budget problems. What’s happening right now in Wisconsin is a perfect example. As people often say around here, “Walker is trying to balance the budget on the backs of teachers.” Teachers have already agreed to make budgetary concessions, but that’s apparently not enough. Now, Wisconsin teachers are losing their ability to collectively bargain. Most school districts around the state of Wisconsin face cuts from already tight budgets. If education and the work of teachers were truly valued in the state of Wisconsin, we wouldn’t be seeing such massive cuts.
Why all this teacher-hate? Those in favor of budget cuts similar to Scott Walkers, have you ever worked as a teacher? I have. Do you know the time commitment, the life commitment, the physical commitment of a teacher? A teacher’s job does not end with the school day ends. A teacher’s job does not end when the school year ends. If you’re a parent, you know what it’s like to be responsible for a child. Multiple that by 100. That’s the number of kids you would be held personally responsible for if you taught, say 7th grade English.
The teaching profession is not like many other jobs of its nature. I can’t stand the comparison between teaching and other jobs. As a teacher, you have to be “on” every single day. A teacher can’t just take a day off and work from the home office. A teacher can’t coast in whenever she feels like it, sit down at her desk with a cup of coffee and catch up on emails. A teacher can’t step out for an hour and meet for a brainstorming session with other professionals about best practices over lunch. A teacher is on his or her feet eight hours a day, every day, engaging students.
As for complaining that teachers get the summers off? I don’t know a single teacher that doesn’t do something school related in summers. A lot of teachers I know have to work in summers to make ends meet whether it’s in teaching summer school, doing curriculum work for the district, working at summer day camps, or preparing for next school year; teachers work in the summer.
It’s about time we show a little more respect for the people who taught us how to read. We owe them at least that much.