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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I Heart Teachers

This is a first for me -two blog posts in one day. Well, well. 
Ever since my recent post about lame excuses I've been feeling the need to clarify. One thing that never fails to rankle me is reading/hearing/otherwise being exposed to comments that generalize about teachers and, after throwing them into one big group, bash them. 
Teacher bashing is ubiquitous. I am overly sensitive to it, so maybe I notice it where someone else wouldn't, but trust me, it is almost considered acceptable, at least in the United States, to talk about teachers as if they are less than other professionals. 

So it bothered me to think that my post could add fuel to that fire. Often when I read or hear talk of how "schools are this" or "teachers are that" I am quick to jump in and point out the fact that one can't generalize about an entire profession made up of millions of people. Each school, each classroom, each teacher is different. I have long believed that part of the problem is that because most people have had personal experience with schools as students, they feel qualified to judge and think they know what it is to be an educator. Not so. And, of course, many people believe that "anyone can teach" or (and this one is the WORST) "those who can do, those who can't..." I invite whoever believes those things to go ahead and try it out.

Yesterday was National Teacher Appreciation Day or some such obscure holiday. Yesterday was also "contract signing for next year day" at the private school where I work. Ah, the irony. Yes, I got a raise...a raise infinitely smaller than the increase in gas prices. What % of nothing does it take to actually equal something?

But alas, this is not a post to whine and cry about how hard I work and how little I am paid. That's common knowledge, right? I must deserve to make so little money because I am__________ (choose as many as apply) noble, stupid, unable to get a real job, so lucky to have my summers off.

Why do I even care what people think of teachers? Why is it so important to me to elevate the status of the teaching profession? Maybe there are a lot of "lame excuse-making teachers" who just got into teaching to boss around smaller, younger people and take summer vacations. 
But that's not what I see. 
I guess I have been lucky to know teachers who are highly educated, deeply caring, well read, professional, resourceful and committed to a profession that allows them to make a difference in the world.

Yes, I would like to see more innovation and less excuses. But it goes both ways.  As teachers, we need to have high expectations for our students so that they will rise to meet them. As a society, we need to have high regard for teachers so that we teachers will hold ourselves and our profession in high regard. I'm not making excuses for the excuse-makers, but when people are exposed time and again to negative expectations and hearing how the best and brightest leave teaching because they can do better...well, what can we expect?

My questions: What can teachers do to elevate the teaching profession? What can other members of society do to elevate the teaching profession? Is this view of teachers unique to the United States? 

1 comment:

kamccollum said...

You ask great questions here and I suspect they are unanswered because readers like me have the same questions. I've seen excellent teachers and poor teachers in about the same proportion as I've seen excellent employees and poor employees in other fields. Most of us are probably just average. I think the barriers to success have more to do with the system in which we work than it does with individual teachers. Teachers are simply the most visible part of the system. If we can figure out a better system, teachers will get the credit just as we now get the blame.