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?

14 comments:

Lisa Parisi said...

Thank you so much, Liz. I, too, am frustrated. I just don't understand how we became the enemy. We didn't cause this economic crisis, we are not responsible for it but we are expected to fix it. And if we don't, we are the enemy.

I have worked for 25+ years as a teacher. I have a Master's Degree plus 60 credits above that. I constantly learn so I can improve my teaching in order to help my students. I work on weekends, over vacations, and throughout the summer.

I deserve much more than I make. Any professional with the experience and education I have would be making at least 3 x as much as I. But I should freeze MY salary and take a paycut.

I think next time I go to the doctor, I am asking her to take a paycut. I will try that at the grocery store, with the contractor, and with my banker too. All's fair, isn't it?

Liz B Davis said...

Oops forgot to cite my image:
"Stop" http://www.flickr.com/photos/cobblucas/4831501753/ by cobblucas on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cobblucas/

Steve Fulton said...

Thanks, Liz for writing this important post. Many of your thoughts mirror my own that I've been having as I've listened in on this troubling national discussion. I'll be sharing this post!

Ms. Lavia said...

Right on Liz!!! Well said. You speak for many teachers like me and my wonderful, collaborative colleagues who are heart-sick over the desperate situation here in California as well as our nation. (Over 4000 pink-slipped teachers in Los Angeles Unified.)

Your sister in solidarity,
Juliet

717 said...

Thank you for your commentary! I couldn't agree more, esp. about collaboration and teachers working all year long. I have close friends who teach high school English (as I do), and we always share materials and discuss lesson plans in the summer because our schedules during the year don't permit us to collaborate.

My two cents on the issue can be found here, again great post! http://strungupinastronglight.blogspot.com/2011/03/we-dont-need-no-education.html

717 said...

Thank you for your commentary! I couldn't agree more, esp. about collaboration and teachers working all year long. I have close friends who teach high school English (as I do), and we always share materials and discuss lesson plans in the summer because our schedules during the year don't permit us to collaborate.

My two cents on the issue can be found here, again great post! http://strungupinastronglight.blogspot.com/2011/03/we-dont-need-no-education.html

Laura said...

I, too, will be sharing your post with my colleagues in Canada. We are facing similar problems. There is a move to increase class sizes to save money while we spend more and more on testing. Thanks for articulating concerns so well.

Amy White said...

Thank you for saying what I've been thinking for months now. I have been a teacher for almost 20 years and I am offended by the notion of merit pay—as if I’ve somehow been doing something other than my best and now if you give me $1000 I’ll do better? Really? This is ridiculous. I love teaching. I knew the pay was low when I started. What I didn’t know when I started was how mean-spirited the national conversation on education would become. I am tired of getting beat up every time I open a newspaper. All these people who think they know how to fix things need to actually be in the classroom. I don’t pretend to know what people do in a cubicle all day long, but I firmly believe that even the worst day teaching is better than sitting in a box.

Classrooms For The Future Coach said...

So very well said. Thank you. I could not agree with you more.

Dave said...

So true! I agree with everything you said.

I was an engineer before becoming a teacher. It took my 10 years and a Master's degree to get to the pay I was making as an engineer. Crazy! I was never as tired or busy in any other job either (and I work part time as a paramedic.)

I'm lucky in that my wife, mom, aunt, cousin, and sister are also teachers.

Teaching is the hardest job you'll ever love.

I also wrote some things about this topic and why people need to support educators.

Why Teachers Like Us Support Unions http://goo.gl/OEC6w

Some Common Educational Myths Busted
http://goo.gl/3SJUw

Who's Responsible for Failing Students and Failing Schools? Everyone
http://goo.gl/aahz

Thanks for a great article! I'm sharing it with my colleagues and friends.

Leiha Casler said...

I am a student in Dr. Strange's EDM 310 course at the University of South Alabama. Even though I am not a teacher yet, I feel the exact same way sometimes. If it wasn't for teachers, then no one would have an education. Thank you so much for speaking out and taking up for Educators.

Jessica Hale said...

Thanks for sharing this Liz! I could not agree more...much can be said for how people value education and in turn value teachers. It is a little scary when we look at how education is valued in other countries. It is NOT the teachers. Parents? Society? One thing is for sure, we have to love our job to keep on doing what we do, no matter what part of the world reside in!

Dan Callahan said...

Great post, but one important quibble: we get 2-3 weeks of vacation time, and two months that we don't work and aren't paid for. Most professionals could easily expect 4 or more weeks of vacation in a year, which means we really get about the same if not less vacation time for the part of the year that we work. Many teachers stretch their pay out to cover the summer, but that really just means you're underpaying yourself during the school year to keep a consistent budget over the summer.

paul bogush said...

It's a little funny that this post is titled "Stop beating up on the teachers" and in your latest post is "Taking off the gloves"...to umm..."beat-up" on the teachers :) :)