Saturday, February 19, 2011

Would somebody tell me why...

Would somebody tell me why everyone seems to think they can do my job--especially when these people are not qualified to do my job?

In this era of education reform, everyone seems to have a solution to America's education ills and recently the trend has been blame the teacher.

We have Bill Gates suggesting that states eliminate the pay increases that teachers receive for earning their master's degrees.  Mr. Gates proposed this as a way for states to balance their education budgets.  Clearly he does not realize that teachers are not the ones making big money in education. Clearly Mr. Gates does not realize that the pay increases are not enough to pay off the student loan debt incurred to earn the master's degree...and the Commonwealth of Kentucky requires all of its teachers to earn a master's degree.

We have all these people vilifying teacher tenure and teacher unions, claiming that these institutions exist purely to protect "bad" teachers.  These institutions exist to prevent a principal firing an experienced educator unjustly.  Trust me, there are protocols in place to remove incompetent teachers--not to protect them! If an incompetent teacher is allowed to remain, it is not because of "union" protection. 

We have politicians attempting to balance state budgets on the backs of teachers and attempting to evaluate teacher quality by student test scores.  These same politicians and pundits are advocating merit pay even though studies have proven that this system is not effective and it implies that teachers are withholding their best strategies until they are paid more.

In actuality, teachers turn themselves inside out trying to help their students be successful on more than standardized tests.  We try to teach them the skills and the knowledge that they need to succeed in life once they leave our buildings.  We encourage them to think for themselves and make informed decisions.

In response to all the hard work, we are not treated as professionals.

We have local media outlets implying that we abuse our sick days.  We may have more sick days than other professions but we are also exposed to countless germs.  When sick children come to school, they expose not just their classmates to their illness but also their teachers. It is actually more work to be absent than it is to work.  We do not always get a sub who knows our subject matter, so I have to make sure that whatever I leave for my students to do--not only fits with what we are doing in the classroom but also can be explained by the sub.  My directions have to be extremely explicit. It is simpler to just go to work and do it myself. I only miss when I physically cannot do the job or when I run the risk of infecting my students.  Most teachers even go so far as to schedule annual doctor's exams during summer break or spring break.

We have to tolerate cracks about how "it must be nice to have all summer off".   In actuality, we do work in the summer.  It is in the summer that we do many of our professional development trainings (which are mandatory).  It is during the summer that we revamp lesson plans and clean out our classrooms. Teachers who coach fall sports work all summer preparing for the upcoming seasons.  Some of my colleagues teach summer school; others have additional jobs during the summer, so they can support their families. 

The day of a teacher...
We get up early to be at school for morning meetings.  We have hall duty or bus duty or parking lot duty. We teach for eight hours and then attend more meetings.  We run practice sessions for extra curricular activities and host after-school tutoring.  We attend our students' plays, ballgames and concerts. When we finally make it home, we have papers to grade and lessons to plan--in addition to daily chores like cooking & cleaning.

All we ask for...a fair wage, adequate benefits and some respect.  After all, we are shaping future leaders.