Cameron Diaz in Columbia Pictures’ film “Bad Teacher”.
“As in any profession, there are teachers who need to receive more training, work harder, and/or move to another job, but if most teachers are doing a pretty good job, then we should probably spend a little more time praising them, a little less time decrying the fate of the teaching profession, and refer to bad teachers as the exception rather than the rule.”
—Education Policy Thoughts
I never really gave much thought to the quality of public education in our country because I never really had a reason to. I mean as a 20-something, my focus was self-centered and the happenings of the children (and to a larger extent community) around me was low on my priority list. Post-30, and 4 years into motherhood, and my perspective has radically changed. The education of my child, and by extension the children around her, is one of my highest priorities. I care about what type of education she will receive, but it is not just about her. Actually my interest in education piqued several years before joining the parenthood club, when we graduated college and many friends entered education as teachers. That interest swelled in later years as our “job talks” shifted from being about them being tolerant and optimistic about helping our young people just because they were the “Talented 10th” and wanted to pay it forward, to frustrated wine downs (emphasis on the wine) about lack of parent participation and in many cases interest, administrators who were out of touch with their employees, and pulling triple duty as teacher, parent, and child psychologist. Then those friends got married and began having children, who then entered the education system and my interest grew even more as they dished about balancing home lives, babies & toddlers with work demands, lack of sleep, and the like.
I thought parenting was hard, and yes it is, but I never imagined that teaching is probably a million times worse—for the good ones that is. And trust me, there are more good ones than not. Fact, in a recent study (2011) by TNPT, a national nonprofit committed to ending the injustice of educational inequality founded by teachers, only 1 percent of teachers are rated unsatisfactory, and 94 percent of principals agree that teachers in their school who are under-performing are rated as such. In short that means that a sweeping majority of teachers actually give a damn and put forth at least average to better effort to educate our youth. So what’s my point? This, a teacher friend, an almost 10-year veteran of a public school system in a non-unionized state is catching hell and I’m offended for them.
I am offended because this teacher I know misses her own children’s events for parent-teacher conferences and mandatory staff meetings. This teacher I know spends her own meager salary buying extra paper, folder, crayons, pencils, etc. for students who don’t have them because their parents can’t or don’t send them to school with supplies. This teacher I know, spends the time at her own children’s team practices grading papers, and stays up nights and weekends doing the same. This teacher I know spends the over-lauded “summer break” in development classes, grade meetings, planning lessons and setting up their classroom. In the decade they’ve taught, I’d say they get an average of one week—ONE WEEK—where they are not planning, grading, or otherwise doing something school/work related, and that’s being generous. It’s for those teachers, the good ones who stay late after school to help students who aren’t getting it, and swallow the comments of idiot administrators, who think it’s right to suggest they consider being stay-at-home-parents if the ever-increasing workload (which is often accompanied by an ever-shrinking salary) is too much for them to bear. Forget if you have a husband or a wife, and children of your own, your job comes first and everything else be damned. For all the good, committed, dedicated, non-unionized teachers who don’t have the muscle of a centralized organization and the persuasive influence of a strike threat to help protect reasonable job benefits I just want you to know that there is at least one (I know there are more out there) who gets it and sends her massive appreciation your way for all your that you do!