Wouldn’t it be more productive to focus our energy and attention on supporting and protecting our good public school teachers?
It seems that we always focus on the negative. Bad teachers can already be fired, tenure or not. Tenure does not prevent school corporations from dismissing incompetent teachers it simply requires that they take the time to do it right and to make a well-documented case.
At a time when teachers are already under attack, falsely accused of being the cause of the failure of so many American students, this decision comes across as more of a “witch hunt” (or witch/warlock hunt if we want to be politically correct) than as a reasoned decision in an attempt to address our nation’s most important issue – the crisis in education!
It is similar to what happens so often in the work place when a few problem employees abuse the rules and privileges of their employer. In these instances, management rushes in to create more rules or take away privileges and the only people they impact are the good employees who come to work every day and do the best job of which they are capable. The new rules and restriction of privileges are like water off the proverbial duck’s back to the abusers because the problem employees do not care and will not abide by the rules, new or old.
In education we are in a state of public panic in which government officials, corporate reformers, and other policy makers are rushing around like incorrigible children, looking for someone at whom to lash out—looking for someone to blame. Teachers just happen to be the most obvious target.
Few if any of these officials and reformers, and also judges, have ever spent so much as a single day in a public school classroom, striving to understand the challenges with which our teachers are confronted.
Instead, they see teachers as easy targets. They tell themselves and the world that they are taking bold action and they puff out their chests in false pride over their bravado, oblivious to the great harm they do.
Not only do they hurt all of the good public school teachers who come to work every autumn to continue an important and seemingly impossible job from which the majority of us would abruptly shirk. What they also do is distract us from taking the time to understand the dynamics of our educational process and taking meaningful action to fix real problems.
If the critics of teachers would take the time to walk in the shoes of our public school teacher these high profile reformers, officials, and policy makers would see that teachers are as much the victims of the dysfunctional system that is American public education as are the students whom they strive to teach under what are often adverse circumstances. They would see minimal support from parents in our most challenging schools and an alarming lack of motivation to learn on the part of the children of those parents.
They would see the damage that is done when they provide incentives, in the form of vouchers for the small number of families who are motivated to take advantage of them, to abandon our most challenged public schools. In the process they leave the teachers and students of those abandoned schools in their wake to deal with the unforeseen and often invisible consequences of their action. They also deprive those abandoned schools and their teachers of much needed revenue.
It is the symbolic equivalent of washing their hands of the problems facing those schools and their teachers and, most of all, our nation’s most vulnerable kids.
This is unacceptable and it will not do! It is time for teachers to rally together and fight to put a stop to the misguided and paralyzing reform initiatives of people who know not what they do!
It is time for teacher unions and associations to re-examine their mission and work together with school administrations to develop meaningful measures to improve teacher skills on the one hand and to develop measures of true accountability on the other.
Just last night, on “Just Let Me Teach” a program host by Justin Oakley on Indiana Talks, an online radio network, a caller told us about a peer review program called PAR in Anderson, Indiana. It is a program making real strides to improve rather than harm our public schools and their teachers. It is a program in which teachers and administrators are working together to create real, meaningful, and sustainable accountability.
These are the kind of programs our elected officials and so-called reformers should be supporting and replicating all over the nation.
And, why are these high profile leaders not talking about the important role that parents play in the education of their children? Why are they not brainstorming with local educators to come up with meaningful programs to reach out into our communities and pull parents in as partners in the education of their children? Why are we not taking the obscene amount of money that is being squandered on meaningless reforms and investing it, instead, in a nationwide initiative to Pull Parents in as Partners?
We need to recognize that the absolute most important things we can do to fix the systemic deficiencies in the American educational process is for teachers, both individually and collectively to partner up with school administrators to work on teacher training and accountability while, in our classrooms, parents and teachers partner up to give our nation’s children the best education possible!