Teacher bashing is all the rage these days, unfortunately.
Teachers are leaving the profession, and I am hearing from teachers I trust that the exodus would be greater if the economy were better. While I think that aspects of the profession ought to be criticized, particularly the ‘trade union’ mentality of some—but not all—union leaders, the bashing is way out of line.
I write about this in my forthcoming book, The Influence of Teachers, but here today I am simply presenting the words from one veteran teacher, a woman I know to be dedicated to her students and the profession.
Please read and reflect.
I teach in a public high school whose students reflect the full socio-economic range of our county. But rich or poor and regardless of the educational backgrounds of their parents, many of my students seem to need me to parent them as well as teach them.
On any given day, in order to teach I must also address the results of this kind of parenting:
–The gay teen whose mother tells him she wishes he had never been born and refuses to come get him when he cuts himself in the school bathroom;
–The-15-year-old whose smell makes us wretch because his clothes aren’t washed and he doesn’t bathe regularly;
–The 15-year-old girl who is shoved through a pane glass window by her mother’s boyfriend when she asks him not to smoke around his new infant daughter (her half sister);
–The affluent boy whose parents’ acrimonious divorce (his father’s 3rd) forces him to quit the tennis team this spring because the shared custody arrangement (alternating homes nightly) leaves no way for him to get home from school after practices and games;
–The mother who corners me in the parking lot at Safeway to challenge a grade on her son’s paper, saying it’s because he rushed that he didn’t clean up the evidence of plagiarism in his essay, and I have to re-grade the paper because his IEP entitles him to extended time (the plagiarism itself didn’t trouble her);
–The 14-year-old boy who cannot stay awake in class because he is out until after midnight most school nights; his mother says, “he doesn’t listen to me,” and add that, in her opinion, he’s “too old to have a bedtime;”
–The mother who tells me to stop calling her about her child’s behavior and says, “When she’s at school she’s your problem. Stop expecting me to do your job.”
–The phone that does not ring when report cards and interims go home showing failing grades.
–The father who berates me for chastising his daughter (who has 3 Es and 2 Ds) when I find her hanging out with her friends in the hallway rather than participating in an optional after-school Exam Review session which the teacher is running voluntarily and on his own time.
I am not alone. Many teachers feel like punching bags and crash test dummies.
Now, dear reader, ask yourself: would you trade places with that teacher? Could you last in the job as long as she had and still be as effective and caring as she is? Does she have a right to be upset?
For reasons I don’t understand, many powerful people are defining public education’s problem as “Bad Teachers.” That’s simplistic and dangerous.
Your thoughts on what we can do to make things better?