I just read Ken Bernstein’s open letter to College Professors and have to agree (http://mynorthwest.com/646/2227382/Sorry-Colleges). We have paid a terrible price for NCLB. What may have been a wonderful idea and aspiration, to leave no child behind in our educational system, has grown into a billion dollar business and changed the focus from the student to the teacher. I love this cartoon because it speaks so clearly to the current state of parent/student/teacher relations. Oh brave new world.
I am constantly amazed at the open hostility shown to teachers, even if they are our neighbors, friends or family. Firing hard working professionals, which work for much less than they would make at a private school or in the private sector, is seen as the solution to all our educational problems. Why do you need teachers when you have online courses? What value is a teacher when standardized test results are sub-par? Who cares that teachers have to teach to the test? When are they going to pay their fair share (neglecting the fact that many teachers have taken pay cuts, cuts in benefits, and also provide school supplies from their own monies, but then that is their choice after all I’ve been told)? How come not every student has individualized attention and falls through the cracks? Why do teachers and administrations have to meet unfunded mandates? Why do you need so many teachers – just increase the class size. I could go on, but you get the gist.
These questions are important in the fiscally challenged world we currently live in, but they are not the only questions we should be asking. Asking our children what their educational experience is today and comparing that to our own experiences is very important. Do they see the value of education in their future success? Is school a place they want to go every day? If not, why not? Do they respect their teachers? By respect I mean do they see their teacher(s) as professional, as valuable, and/or as someone dedicated to helping them succeed? Why do they think students are organizing demonstrations in support of their teachers and against standardize testing around the country? I would love to know what kids have to say about these and other issues related to their education.
I am not quite naive enough to think that all teachers are wonderful and if we just have respect for these professionals all the educational challenges we face would be solved. But I am optimistic that we can make a difference in the current debate by letting our legislators, state and national, know that teachers and teaching are deserving of our respect, that involving educators in curriculum and assessment design is fundamental to the success of our children’s education, and that involving educators in policy making is fundamental to the success of our education system. Blaming teachers is easy, but it isn’t right.