Monday, July 11, 2016

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means, not to me, but what it means

So, I was reading an article today about a national shortage of teachers.  As I scanned the headline, “Where have all the teachers gone?”  I pretty much predicted how the article would go.

First, it would talk about how the ranks of certified teachers have thinned by some significant percentage.  Then the article would highlight two or three states with the biggest shortages.  It would hit on one of three points, or all three as the cause: low pay, lack of training, or classroom overcrowding.  Then they’d talk to an “expert” who would mention how he and his particular group were working to remedy one of those problems.

This one focused on training with a capital T.  Enrollment is down in teacher preparation programs, and this particular expert said that America needed to provide more training to teachers so that they could be more effective in the classroom.  This assertion made me laugh, not loudly so that people would look at me weirdly in the supermarket line, but with a short, bitter “ha” that doesn’t have an exclamation mark.

You readers know how I feel about training.  I’d be for it if I ever had decent training.  My certification program was pretty good, in that it was incredibly practical.  But what I don’t get is why districts and “experts” and people in charge keep coming back to “inadequate training” as the reason teachers don’t stay.  It’s not like we’re all getting fired because we don’t know how to unlock our classroom doors or input grades – or maybe we are.  I don’t know what goes on in all districts.

But is it really training?  If enrollment is down in teacher prep programs, then the problem is that people DON’T WANT TO TEACH.  So I don’t see how more or even better training is going to fix that. If too many teachers are leaving the profession, then forcing more training on them, which IS currently happening, is not what they need to make them stay. 

Why aren’t teachers staying in the classroom?  Why don’t we ask them?

What I find fascinating is the fact that they never talk to any teachers in the article.  Teachers have a lot to say, and yet there’s never a quote from a single classroom teacher.  Do the reporters not know any?  Or do they assume teachers can’t give good quotes since they’ll be too busy trying to correct the reporter’s grammar?  Thousands of teachers are working all over America, and a journalist can’t find a single one to weigh in on what’s happening in education?   

So, to shorten any future articles you read here’s why people are leaving in a nutshell: No one respects us – no one.  

Look, if a reporter respected teachers, he or she would talk to one.  If an administrator respected his or her teachers, he or she would stop putting out directives that go against common sense and would treat staff members like intelligent adults.  If district officials and lawmakers respected teachers, they’d stop wasting their time with laws that benefit no one, testing that eats up class time and training that encompasses the latest ideological fad.

If you were continually treated like the village idiot, wouldn’t you leave the village?  And seriously, just be glad the teachers are leaving, not burning down the village, which they certainly could.
I’ve worked in corporate America, in small businesses, in media, in retail and even in real estate.  I can honestly say that nowhere else have I ever seen employees talked down to and demeaned the way teachers are by their own administrators, district officials or parents.  Nor have I ever seen the plethora of bad ideas thrown at employees the way they get thrown at teachers, with the expectation that it’ll be implemented immediately, and then later abandoned just as quickly as soon as higher ups get tired of it.  Such bad ideas include extra paperwork to document every parent contact, every assignment a student turned in, and every interaction a teacher had with a student, in the guise of making that teacher “more effective.”  Because we all know that more paperwork equals a better employee, right?

I’ve never seen a profession more stupidly gung-ho about applying technological solutions to pretty much every problem, even (and especially) if the chance of solving the problems that way is slim, or the resources to utilize the technology are lacking.

So hey, reporter, explain to me why an “expert” who hasn’t been in a classroom in years or ever is giving his or her two cents?  Because you know what that opinion is worth?

Less than – okay, you saw that coming.