Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Running out of control

We keep hearing that it is important for our teachers to be smart and competent.   We want them to be leaders!   We want them to be able to teach challenging curriculum.   We want them to be knowledgeable.  We want a lot!
Then we assign them to a classroom.  We give them a curriculum for which they had no input whatsoever.   We give them a "pacing guide".  The pacing guide "guides" the pace at which they teach the children.  It is as much guidance as a train schedule is guidance for the train conductor.  Teachers had better be on the right page at the right day.  The so-called good curricula even tell the teachers how to teach the content over which they have no control.  
Of course, teachers also belong to a union.  The union contract spells out the hours they are to work and what they will be paid.   They can work brilliantly or not and what they will be paid will be the same.
OK, so we want smart, competent leaders in our classrooms.  Exactly what would these smart competent leaders do in a classroom.   They don't have much to lead.   The methodology, the curriculum, and the pace of their tasks have been predetermined by other leaders.   The have no opportunity to increase their income by working smarter or harder.
If a teacher is smart and competent, she might want to change the pace of the curriculum delivery depending on the knowledge and skills of her students.  Sorry can't do that, pacing "guide" does not allow that.  If a teacher is a leader, she might want to add some curriculum that meets the needs of a particular area or community.   Sorry can't do that either, the curriculum does not allow that.
If a teacher is ambitious she might want to work harder and achieve more so she can earn more money.  Sorry she can't do that because the union contract spells out what she will earn independent of skill or performance.
We can't even keep our teachers safe.  Zero tolerance policies for physical aggression, drugs and alcohol have been determined to be politically incorrect and have been discarded in the interest of being more PC.  We aren't helping these kids with these problems, if we don't treat the problem while still protecting the rest of the student body and staff.
Why don't we just admit that teaching today has become a pink collar occupation.  Of course, even those women who used to work in secretarial positions have the opportunity to move into administrative assistant positions where they have more degrees of freedom than teachers do.  Once we accept what we have done to the teaching profession, and acknowledge that it is no longer a profession, we might do a better hiring job.   Right now we snow young grads into believing they are entering a profession where they have some control.   Once they find out the truth, they leave in droves.  Perhaps if we did truth in job advertising we might not be losing 3 out of 5 new teachers in the first 5 years.

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