Teaching ate me alive – Salon.com
Wrong profession? Lost perspective? Just another whiny, self-absorbed wool-gatherer? Guilty as charged. Hey, I’m a card-carrying, fellow-traveling union member! But I do have one suggestion for civilians. As a public school teacher, I considered myself a public servant, like cops, firemen, food service workers and other “heroes” who are willing to do difficult, thankless, vital jobs for very little pay and not much more than the scorn of their fellow citizens. Thus, the door of my classroom was always open to parents, administrators, politicians, journalists and passers-by. But I waited in vain for company, for visitors were scarce. All the jibber jabber about public education these days seems to be based solely on idle speculation, memories of a Golden Age and the bilge that the LA Times publishes in lieu of objective journalism. So please stop by a classroom sometime. You might be surprised. And you’re paying for it.
The teaching profession is an endangered species. A learned and difficult profession is under attack with the apparent intent of reducing its pay to something akin to a hamburger flipper. The ideas of the “reformers” seem to consist not of putting money into public schools but removing teacher protections. Teachers are now portrayed in popular movies and “reformer” financed documentaries as evil or incompetent obstacles to educational success. Teaching is an institution laboring under the ridiculous burden of No Child Left Behind, a barrage of often bizarre state mandated rules and governed by administrators who at times seem to be focused on driving out every vestige of independence and enthusiasm. We destroy the teaching profession at our peril. It is an institution that has served this country well.
Make no mistake. The public school teaching crisis will have real casualties not just among the faculty. Without teacher opposition, school boards will have much more power to create rules and policies without interference.* They are the main line of defense against the threat of privatization, a pet project of a good number of billionaires and largely a failure at improving test scores.** But the simplest and clearest danger is that many teachers will leave the profession. After all, in a nation that believes “you get what you pay for,” many have decided teaching is worth but little.
*Don’t take my word that school boards do strange things. Run a simple search, school board controversy, and then have fun wading through the entries.