My wife has been a public high school science teacher for over 20 years. I'm a libertarian agnostic dispassionate observer engineer type who thinks just about everything is over complicated...usually by emotion and personal bias. As the spouse of a teacher with two sons, 13 and 10, in public schools and with all the hoopla around "Waiting For Superman," the Chicago teacher strike, charter schools, etc. -- I wanted to share my take on what it's like to be a teacher.
- Fulfilling and rewarding opportunity to help young people who are eager to better themselves
- Good health insurance, long summer vacations, decent pension
- Expected to cater to and be accountable for students and families who take little or no personal responsibility
- Expected to administer a constant barrage of standardized tests and to be evaluated almost exclusively on student standardized test performance
- Expected to address individual student learning styles
- Expected to be an "entertainer" as well as a teacher because students can't be expected to do their work without being entertained
- Expected to deal with disruptive students without referring them to administration because a "good teacher" controls his or her classroom
- Expected to constantly give up free/planning time at the whim of the school or county administration -- usually for "enrichment/job justification" BS
- Expected to arrive early, stay late, and work holidays and weekends
- Expect to be treated unprofessionally and made to feel guilty when you need to call in sick -- even though you would only call in sick if you were almost dead because you're always swamped with work. Also expect your pay to be docked like an hourly employee if you need to leave 15 minutes early for a doctor appointment (even if it's your planning period and no substitute teacher is required), but salaried when they want you to work the homecoming dance and grade papers every night, weekend and holidays
- Do not hold teachers and schools accountable for students and families that don't take personal responsibility. No Child Left Behind is a disaster. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
- Some standardized testing is not without merit and can be an informative benchmark...for those that care. It's more important to teach kids why learning is important and how to learn on their own. Help them to be lifelong learners. Give students and families the information and tools and then give them the freedom to structure an education plan that works for them. Stop forcing everyone into the same rigid sausage factory. People are different and they have different abilities, goals, desires, and ambitions.
- With the emphasis on standardized testing and the number of students each teacher is responsible for, there is too little time to address individual learning styles. If you want that then you'll have to do it yourself or hire a tutor.
- Teachers shouldn't have to be entertainers. They shouldn't have to make a rap video so the kids won't be bored learning their vocabulary words. Not having the time to make learning more fun is one of the most frustrating aspects of teaching these days. Sometimes you just have to bear down and do the work.
- Get the kids that don't behave out of the classroom without holding it against the teacher for her "inability to control the classroom." Treat education as the privilege it is and get the disruptive kids out. My wife had a principal a few years back that made it policy to push back on teachers that tried to refer kids to administration for disciplinary reasons. It was a nightmare. At the end of the year the principal congratulated everyone on being the number one school in the county in terms of reducing disciplinary referrals. That principal is now at the county and probably in line for superintendent.
- The classroom is ground zero. It's where the rubber meets the road. It's the reason schools exist. Every position, policy, interruption, meeting, etc that does not positively impact the student and teacher in the classroom should be minimized or eliminated. How about letting the teachers be the judge? Instead of requiring teachers to attend some BS meeting, how about giving them the information and letting them decide if it's beneficial or not. Treat them like the professionals they are. Or better yet…how about grabbing a stack of papers and grading them.