Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stop Beating up on Teachers!

It doesn't help our children!

I'm so tired of being kicked around in the media, by politicians and just by random people who think they know something about education. Everyone thinks because they went to school, they know something about teaching. If you go to a concert, does that mean you know how to play an instrument? If you go to a play, does that mean you know how to act?  As a teacher, I also try to be a learner, but it isn't quite as easy to go the other way. A lot goes on behind the scenes.

I started my education career in 1993 as a sixth grade teacher in a suburban public school. I did that for 7 years. Since then I have worked with inner city girls for a non profit educational research center, traveled the country doing technology professional development for an educational software company, written and edited for a textbook developer, went back into public schools (K-12) as a technology integration specialist, and for the last three years I have worked in a private school as the Director of Academic Technology.  I've learned a lot about education.

Here are a few things I know about teachers.

1. We don't do it for the money - After almost 20 years in the field, with an Ivy league undergraduate degree, a Master's degree plus 60 additional graduate credits, I still make less money than a first year associate at a major law firm (in Boston).

2. We work really hard all year long - We stand on our feet for most of the day, get limited bathroom breaks, have rare access to a computer or phone, are exposed to a lot of daily noise and energy, have to be "on" for many hours in a row and take a lot of work home with us every night. Yes we get a lot of vacation time, but we need it desperately!

3. We work best when we collaborate - We need to give incentives to the great teachers to share their knowledge and expertise, so that all students benefit. Merit pay makes no sense if it pits teachers against each other. New teachers learn from experienced teachers.  If we make teachers competitive, children suffer.

4. Unions aren't the problem - It's the evaluation and professional development systems that matter. Administrations and parental involvement make a huge difference. There are plenty of districts without unions that suffer from low achievement and plenty of districts with strong unions that turn out fabulously educated kis.

5. Teachers need your respect - If you keep bashing teachers, no one is going to want to become one! Why should our students respect us, if no one else does?

I've been so frustrated lately. I just had to get that off my chest. Thanks for listening!

What do you know about teachers?
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