Thursday, February 24, 2011

Teachers Are Not the Enemy

Let me say this once again with emphasis - TEACHERS ARE NOT THE ENEMY!.

Yet, everywhere we turn, it seems teachers are the sole source of all the evils and troubles affecting school districts all over the US. And it really makes little difference what the political leanings are of the folks blaming the teachers as it is a seeming article of faith on both sides of the political aisle.

Pardon me, however, if I take the time to point a few things out to folks.

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post "Let's Play With Some Numbers Once Again (Teachers Style)" where I used this site to draw some figures for Wisconsin teaching salaries (it looks like it is through 2008). Using the same chart and some basic arithmetic and division (which I learned thanks to some good teachers pounding it into my thick skull), the average starting salary for new teachers across the fifty states is $30,950 with a high of $39,259 for Connecticut and a low of $24,872 in North Dakota. An average of the fifty state average teacher salaries is $46,227 with a high average being California of $59,825 and a low average of $34,709 in South Dakota. You might notice that both California with their highest average salary of the fifty states is also a high cost of living state (as is Connecticut which has the highest starting salary and the second highest average overall).

Now what do the states and their citizens in the individual school systems receive for these salaries? Well, outside of Detroit, where it looks like the teachers are going to be primed to become mainly baby sitters with class sizes up to 60 students per class, teachers are supposed to guide students to prepare for all that life has to offer, even when they are constrained about some of the things life offers as "inappropriate for young minds." Teachers teach the "3 Rs of Readin,' 'ritin', and 'rithmetic" (has anyone ever wondered about the Epic Fail of that phrase?) while making sure the students are prepared for and pass all the various state level achievement tests that have been brought around by "No Child Left Behind" yet doing so with increasingly larger classes and less funding?

I have to wonder today if the period when I was in grade school, junior high, and even high school was the heyday of the US educational system. I spent the first four grades in a small town elementary school (Go Berry!) that had one class each for first grade through eighth grade. Fifth grade was spent at the "city" elementary school (Go Marshall!), sixth grade at the old city high school as the consolidation of schools was taking place, then seventh and eighth grade at the brand new junior high. At Berry School, we had our regular grade level teacher (Miss Lyons, Mrs Cummings, Mrs Lenox, and Mrs Hutton) plus teachers like Miss Land who would come around and teach music to the schools throughout the county. By the time we were at the new junior high our classes included art as well as music. For those of us who did not play a musical instrument in the band, the boys had Intro to Shop/Industrial Arts classes (including drafting) while the girls had Home Ec classes. Nowadays, I'm sure if the option were presented to me, I would have chosen the Home Ec classes but we are talking the early to mid '60s here. We had art classes to go with English, Math, Science, PE and Health. I learned early that my artistic abilities were not too great (nothing I ever made came out as I envisioned it originally so it became "abstract").

Are children today even allowed to experience anything other than the basic courses due to the needs of the achievement tests? In a class size of 60 students, how is the teacher supposed to be able to spend the time working with students that need the extra help? How are the teachers even supposed to identify the areas that need the extra help for students in classes of that size?

Yet just today, there are reports that the Providence, RI schools are sending layoff notices to all teachers effective the end of the school year due to "dire budget outlines." Chicago Mayor-elect, Rahm Emanuel sees teachers as a target. Florida is "overhauling" their teacher rules. Former DC School superintendent and "Educational Reformer" Michelle Ree and her fiancee, Sacremento, CA Mayor Kevin Johnson are pushing their perspective of stopping "last in, first out" for teaching. Of course, this last perspective is common in many other areas of the work world and is not limited to teaching. It is also not limited to states and school districts with teachers unions as this opinion piece from Time magazine mentions.

The thing is, each and every teacher "rule" that is being attacked is something that has been implemented and agreed upon by far more than individual teachers. That includes the politicians railing against the teachers and using budget problems to slash and burn the school district offerings. Teachers have not created the "dire budget outlines." Ya think continually cutting taxes and services for the top 1% of society while bankers destroyed the economy and created official unemployment rates over 9% and un and underemployment number reaching 25 to 30 million people just might have some bearing on all this?

Are there teachers who might serve all better by finding new career fields? Of course there are. Just as deputy states' Attorneys General who stalk college students or advocate deadly force against peaceful protesters should probably find new career fields as well. Every field has people of more or less levels of incompetence. That is absolutely no reason to denigrate the efforts and accomplishments of millions of dedicated teachers by making them all the enemy.

And because I can:

No comments:

Post a Comment