It is the start of the school year, and I do not like teaching as much as I used to like it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my students; I love class discussion; I love witnessing real growth from the beginning of the year until the end; I love my curriculum, and from the plethora of thank you notes, emails, and comments I have received over the years, I would say I am fairly good at what I do.
So why am I starting to dread my job? Is it a midlife crisis? An awareness, maybe, that most people don’t go to work in buildings that top out around 100 degrees until late September? No. It is the negative political machine that makes me consider other lines of work.
No politician is willing to admit that the reform in education should not be knee-jerk and outcome based. No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and now, the push for Common Core Standard curriculum are preposterous outcome based methodologies that do not allow for true educational reform. The methodology is to evaluate education through data-driven results and education will improve. It is a widgit mentality. It does not take into account the individual student’s needs and abilities. Instead, teachers are forced to teach to the test so their school and they themselves will not receive a poor evaluation. It is clear that the poor districts in socio-economic depressed areas continue to fall behind their counterparts in affluent districts. Yet, politicians do not want to face the real problems of our society; instead, it is easier to say that teachers are the problem.
Furthermore, the push for on-line schooling goes against the foundation and fundamentals of what education is. Technology should not be a substitute for a teacher that interacts every day with a student. Learning is social and interactive; yes, it is about learning a curriculum, but it is more than that. It involves class discussion, listening to the views of others, and formulating critical opinions. On-line learning may allow for the student to absorb the state-mandated curriculum and successfully pass the state mandated test; however, the student is one-dimensional; the social and interactive process that is education, the fundamental process that involves a teacher and students, has been overlooked as trivial and unnecessary.
Politicians have a new vision of what education should be. They want it to be streamlined and they want it to run like a business. First, they want to bust up the unions and pay teachers extremely low salaries, but they want superior results. The strongest and best candidates, the college students who could be the best educators of tomorrow are picking other careers. Those who do actually choose this path will more than likely burnout in the first five years. As it is, nearly 50% of teachers leave to pursue careers in other professions before they reach their sixth year of teaching.
Secondly, politicians are influenced by big business lobbyists who care more about corporate profits than individuals, so they do not like unions. However, it is proven that as the membership of unions decline, so too, does the middle class in America decline. Thus, by pushing good teachers out of education, not only will we not be able to rise to these proposterous standards, we will actually be suffering as a society. The gap between rich and poor will become even more substantial, and the education process will continue to be tenuous.
Needlesstosay, I go into the new year excited to meet my students and watch them grow and develop. I dread the media’s spin on what I do. I do not know if I will be able to do this job for eighteen more years. I worry that if we Americans do not change from a blame-game society to a society that addresses the inequalities that exist in our society, the inequality in education will never change. The rich districts will perform well; the poor districts will under perform. And the teacher will be blamed. I fear our educational rank will continue to fall behind countries who revere educators, who view teachers’ role in society as important as doctors, pro-athletes, and lawyers.