Wednesday, June 1, 2011
The Myth About Teachers, Busted
Throughout this political cycle there has been considerable discussion over funding education, especially where that funding concerns the classroom and the classroom teacher. Many of those on the left have bemoaned the nearly criminal lack of tax hikes created to augment America’s profound parsimony where education is concerned. They never mention the utter disparity between administration salaries and staff, but the hue and cry is profound. On the right the teacher is viewed primarily as either an enemy of the state at worst or an indoctrinator of leftist causes at best. Both extremes could not be further from the truth and there appears to be a missing factor in the debate. Both the right and the left have steadfastly refused to separate the vast bulk of classroom educators with the real genesis of the problem; ill-prepared, disruptive students, utterly uninvolved parents, socialistic union leadership concerned only about their own power, school boards far more agenda-driven than education-driven and administrations concerned only with maintaining the meager flow of federal dollars.
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear; the "teachers work for only 9 months" myth is just that, a myth. Every teacher I know works throughout the year for less pay than any other degreed profession. Their work doesn’t end simply because they leave the classroom. Consider this comparison, let’s say that a degreed individual has a position that requires considerable time away from his or her desk, but the general public only considers the time spent at the desk as “being on the job”, is that in any way a fair judgment? It is the same with the classroom teacher, but the media continues to ridicule those who object to the generally accepted stance on teaching hours vs. contracted hours. Ask a teacher what he or she has to do to prepare for next year during that so-called "vacation". In my research, every decent teacher puts in a 12 hour minimum day during school and an average of 6 to 15 hours weekly during the "vacation". This does not include the additional hours of continuing education required to maintain the teaching credential.
It seems that some in-depth reporting on what a teacher is forced to put up with and the incredible amount of additional work required of them in addition to just the teaching deserves putting down ink on a page. The average administrator is paid over twice what the average teacher receives, including the benefit packages, yet teachers are constantly reviled as overpaid, lazy “indoctrinators” who only work 6 hours a day “at the public trough". What would be the consequence be if those advocating the elimination of public education got their way? Just how many parents would be responsible enough to shoulder the burden now shifted to them? How many would be either willing or able to afford a private school education? Those advocating such a move cannot simply suggest a shift of public monies to cover this expense unless they are willing to also admit to extreme hypocrisy.
As time passes, it seems that the public school eliminators may get their wish through attrition alone. More and more educators are leaving the profession and for good reason. A prime example is the ever-growing lack of respect shown to the classroom teacher from the parents on down. This is not mere coincidence as the teaching of manners now ends after elementary school and far too many with the power to do so are removing any sense of accomplishment associated to succeeding in school. Take social promotion as an example. These advocates of mediocrity claim that assigning failure to a student who actually fails harms the child somehow. By the time that student reaches high school age the damage is quite possibly irreversible, and yet the teacher is somehow at fault for what others have done. For some reason it is not the politicians, the administration or even the parents, but the teacher who is to blame for the illiterate brats that continue to hit the streets each year.
Another reason is lack of respect. Every professional occupation there is owes its existence to the teacher and yet very little, if any, appreciation comes their way. Not from the students, not from the parents and especially not from the school administration, and even less from those reporting and commenting on the issue. Our teachers are stuck in a horrible system not of their making, yet the media constantly calls for teacher accountability. Where is the student accountability? Where is the parent accountability? Where is the community accountability?
Nearly every classroom teacher I have spoken to simply wants to be able to impart knowledge of their subject to their students. They do not want to be babysitters and they are deeply offended by No Child Left Behind, standardized testing and the stance of the union that attempts to dictate how teachers should think and vote. They are worn out from the lack of discipline and prevalence of social promotion, and every other issue they are wrongly blamed for. Teachers do need more than lip service, they need the afore-mentioned respect, it is doubtful they will ever get what is needed, certainly not from any political party and certainly not from the conservative media, even though a significant percentage of teachers are supporters of the tea party movement. But what is even worse, they will not receive any thanks from the parents who send their little darlings off to the cheapest nanny there is. Teachers are simply tarred with the brush that should be aimed at those causing the problem, not because doing so is right but because it is easier.