Getting Crushed at the Bottom of the Pile

Sunday is the day I take to read the Education section of the New York Times. This is my “me time” reading and is one of the ways I keep up with what actually goes on in the trenches in the world of K-12 education (another way is hanging with current teacher friends during happy hour)! I’ve been stewing over a few quotes in one particular article, and I’m pretty much reaching critical mass when I think about their implications for our students. The article was titled “At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice” so I should have been forewarned that my mood would not be particularly good after perusing.

Let me share three of the more ominous quotes that appear rather quickly in the article (by paragraph 4) and where they led my thoughts. The first was, We have this highly motivated, highly driven work force who are now wondering, ‘O.K., I’ve got this, what’s the next thing? Yes, because you can obviously know all there is about teaching in 2 to 4 years and you are no longer motivated by the fact that you have the supreme responsibility of molding young minds, helping them to achieve full and rich lives. Plus I’m sure parents love the fact that these highly motivated individuals are focused more towards their own future than they are those childrens’ futures.

Next, There is a certain comfort level that we have with people who are perhaps going to come into YES Prep and not stay forever. This makes sense. As the article informs us, scripted teachers developed by Teach For America are a prime source of bodies for these types of charter schools. If you have a teacher who has been in the classroom for 4+ years they may, *gasp*, develop ideas of their own on issues such as classroom management and best teaching practices. This can certainly cause problems for administrators when teachers start to buck the system and begin to advocate for their students.

Finally, Strong schools can withstand the turnover of their teachers. Wow. Seriously, Wendy Kopp, the best thing for our students is instability in their schools? Do you REALLY believe that? My reaction, yes, was this…

mushroom cloud

The complete lack of respect for teaching as a profession encapsulated by these (and more) statements in this article is mind boggling. Teaching is NOT something to be used to bide your time and build your resume/CV until a better opportunity comes along. For true teachers it IS the opportunity. It is time for us to put teachers back on top of the education policy decision making pile. They are the ones observing firsthand the effects generated in the classroom by policies set by politicians and businessmen. Human growth and development does not follow a set algorithm. We need caring, experienced teachers to help lead the way in order to provide the best education possible for our children. Administrators should be evaluated based on how well they help their teachers develop, not based on how many teachers they fire.

Somehow the world is upside down where education is concerned and it’s time to set it upright. It is time to start trusting our teachers, their experiences, their caring, their abilities to help our children learn and to give them the power they need to accomplish that very important task.

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About Cynthia Clark

I hold a doctorate in curriculum & instruction, with an emphasis in educational technology and science education. I work for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as the Evaluation and Assessment Specialist for the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Assessment. My current research interests include qualitative responses to course evaluations, both the development of open-ended items and their subsequent analysis.
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