Stop trying to teach the teachers.

It entertains me how suddenly the rest of the nation, who has not gone to school and majored in education, can suddenly tell teachers how to do their jobs. I may be a college student, but even I can see how frightening that is.

The situation in Madison, Wis., is troubling to me. If a government can decide it is okay to end the collective bargaining rights of a union, what’s to stop them from taking away other labor or civil rights?

My father, a high school English teacher, doesn’t tell his mechanic how to fix his car. He doesn’t criticize our plumber for the work he does on our sink and he certainly doesn’t tell his accountant to take a pay cut because frankly, he just makes too much money in this difficult economy.

Ridiculous, right? But it has become commonplace in America in this day and age to attack teachers for simply doing their jobs. Anyone who…

  • Puts 20+ years into a career
  • Attains multiple advanced degrees
  • Deals with children of all ages, 7 hours a day
  • Coaches, sponsors or runs activities
  • Gives up weekends for said activities
  • Fights to earn tenure and seniority
  • Plays counselor, parent, friend, cheerleader and confidante to students
  • Is constantly evaluated, criticized and challenged to maintain quality curriculum in the face of dwindling resources….

Deserves appropriate pay and benefits. Sure, every profession has it’s lazy members, and every profession has members that make mistakes. But why would we demonize the people who arguably make one of the biggest influences on children’s lives, and often positively so?

Now, when teachers are called on more and more to take on additional duties and activities for less or no pay, we need to step up and support them, because they support us.

Moreover, parents need to realize they are stakeholders in their children’s educations, and take the steps necessary to supplement that or address problems as they arise, not just rely on the teacher. It’s a partnership between students, parents and teachers to achieve academic success.

In the school district I report for, teachers currently pay 14 percent of their salaries into their pensions, and this percentage rises by .5 percent every year. Other public workers pay about 6 percent into social security of their salaries. These figures differ by state, but it seems like a big difference, right? Teachers have a completely different retirement system than other state employees, with it’s own rules and requirements. They can’t play by the rules of another game.

I applaud the teachers and students who are protesting this insult to education. Teachers motivate us, support us and invariably change our lives. I could name 10 teachers just off the top of my head who have made measurable differences in my life, and I can be nothing but grateful.

The Wisconsin republicans are citing the raised teacher contributions as an economic safeguard, but it really just takes pressure off the government to match those funds, which they committed to. It’s no secret that states need to balance their budgets, why is education the first target? Honestly, there is nothing more important to becoming a productive member of society than education.

Somehow teachers always take the blame for kids who won’t try or do poorly, no matter if they are good teachers or not. I get it. I went through public schools and watched kids give up, not care, and do poorly the whole way through. If you don’t want to try, no amount of prodding, threatening  or rewarding will change you.

But what about those kids who do try, who are influenced by the same great teachers? You know, the ones who compete for top-tier colleges, receive scholarships and go on to be successful. Why do we credit teachers with student failures, but not student successes?

Teachers and citizens alike should be rightfully enraged. So stop trying to teach the teachers. They’ll always do it better.

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2 thoughts on “Stop trying to teach the teachers.

  1. Shaina,
    Great post! You are a great writer and certainly in your element.

    I don’t think the problem is the teachers or the government…it’s the model of schooling (which is different than education) that was set up 100+ years ago. It is a dying model, and there is no good way to save it. Who is to blame: the Internet.

    Do you own an iPod? Because that killed the record store.
    Do you buy airline tickets online? Because that killed travel agents.
    Do you own a Kindle? Because that is killing paper books, and publishing is next.
    Do you use books in Missouri’s library to site in your blog? Because Google killed that 5yrs ago.
    Do you buy books at Borders? Because Amazon is always cheaper with a greater selection.

    Schooling was created to educate everyone. Laws were passed and the system was set in place. Libraries were built, as they have been for thousands of years to be the information centers that people gathered around: elementary school – university because access to reliable forms of information was scarce.

    Google itself has blown that wide open. We can connect instantly and many of the best minds in the world are using twitter, blogs, or Youtube.

    It’s not the teachers or the governments, it is the behavior of you and me that is driving the shift. And we are conversing from different parts of the USA…and I’m not in your class. Thanks for the post!

  2. Thank you for your kind words and thoughtful comment. Although I do agree that the internet is changing how our schooling works, I would argue that it can be used advantageously. Technology excites kids and is a way to communicate on their level. Any way to better relate to them, whether on an iPad or through Twitter, can’t be bad.

    Hopefully in the coming years, educators will further their usage of technology to better education rather than hinder it.

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