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That's Not Teacher-Like

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Scott E makes some valid points in his response to the article and I agree. I was in the teaching profession for the past 17 years and have recently moved to the area of writing curriculum. It has taken months for me to adjust to the freedoms and opportunities afforded to "real" professionals. I could and would have stayed longer if I had more rights as a teacher than a student, but that was not the case. To quote from the 1955 movie, "Blackboard Jungle," "I know I have no rights as teacher, but do I have any rights as a human?"

Scott and LeAnn, Thank you for your comments, they are much appreciated. What do you think would be steps (no matter how small) to improve this situation? People talk about raising the status of teaching or increasing teacher autonomy. But I often wonder, what might that involve specifically? Esther

I wrote about this in a different context when Chris Christie gave his RNC speech: http://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/why-chris-christie-picks-on-teachers/ Namely, why is everyone upset about teachers? Why aren't they equally upset at cops and firefighters. Same answer springs to mind, although political affiliation wins.

It's one of the first things you notice when you become a teacher after being a professional in another field, the lack of being treated professionally. The attitude displayed is it's almost a given teachers will not behave professionally unless forced to do so and as you note the meaning of professional can depend on the administrator in charge as well as the teacher's level of obedience and cheerfulness in which that obedience is carried out. When teachers resist the newest reform, their concerns are rarely appreciated. Compliance is the expectation. This attitude does not create an atmosphere that promotes creativity. The irony is that while schools have pushed teachers to develop multiple lesson plans of a single lesson for the variety of student learning styles, schools have also pushed to standardize more and more of what a teacher does such as common assessments, lesson plans, and calendars. It's a further irony that over the last ten years as reform efforts have targeted making teachers more accountable for student outcomes from the outside, teachers have become more limited in how they can manage their own classrooms to produce those outcomes from the inside.

In a sense, I would echo what Education Realist said, but say it it this way. By and large, teachers don't run schools. It might even be argued teachers don't really have autonomy within a classroom. So, why all the anger aimed at teachers and not anyone else in the educational system? If the starting point of the conversation is teachers are the problem, it should be no surprise their status has declined. Further note how narrow that conversation is. It's all about testing and teacher accountability. The conversation waves away with phrases like "unobservable poor teaching practices" any attempt to look at why the educational system as a whole might inhibit or support better learning outcomes. It waves away the role financing plays in those outcomes. And it waves away the idea that if educating children requires a teacher to be Superman, there is something fundamentally wrong about what we believe our schools need or should be. We need to change that conversation. Talk about giving teachers a greater roll in actually running their schools instead of further widening the gap between the roles of teachers and administrators. The conversation needs to be about how or why teachers may struggle and how the system can be changed to improve their efforts instead of talking about to what degree a single test result tells us whether or not a teacher should be fired. The conversation about teacher's unions needs to change. The whole of that conversation seems to be teacher's unions are bad and all they do is protect incompetent teachers. We need teacher's unions to talk more about how they really protect and support the efforts of teachers. We need to stop the false dichotomy that what's good for teachers is bad for children or that what's good for children is bad for teachers. And we need to stop waving away the reality that the people who promote such dichotomies have their own agendas that have little to do with improving our educational system, that in fact will profit from the making teachers, their unions, and our educational system as whole appear as dysfunctional as possible.

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