One of the reasons I began posting my thoughts on education and my experiences in the inner-city classroom was to give the general public the chance to read a first-hand account of what we deal with as teachers in large urban districts.
I've mentioned before the reactions I've received from strangers when I am introduced as a high school teacher in the city of Cleveland. They run the gamut from "You are surely a saint", to "You've gotta be bad-ass" to "You must be nuts"
And to each of these I respond "Yes...kinda", and "Absolutely", and "So I've been told".
There are other comments too.
Teachers usually won't hear these until there is a snow-day, a levy on the ballot, or a teacher's strike. They usually come from the portion of the adult population who have not set foot in a public school in many, many years. If ever.
These folks will dare not disparage us individually, it is much easier to discuss the larger group... "Those lazy, greedy, teacher's unions".
Today I received a comment from a reader who was responding to my post concerning the "No Child Left Behind" legislation. (Link to post here for entire comment)
I think teacher need to get into the real world with their contracts. NO ONE in the private sector has fully funded health care. NO ONE in the private sector gets the multiple other benefits teachers get in the way of time off, pension plans, job security, as well as admiration from their students as well as parents. When is the last time a child (other than their own) admired a computer programmer or a chef ..etc..
NCLB is not the end all, be all for saving the schools. It is a great start though. I think we need to expect more from our inner city schools and hopefully they will respond. If not, they need to be totally reorganized. There is an old saying in sports, you can't fire all the players; so you get rid of the coach
Oh boy. This is precisely the misinformation that I've wanted to address here in this weblog.
The first blaring comment that caught my pop-eyed attention was the reference to fully funded healthcare.
Wait-a-minute..let me look at my last paystub.
So I gave my friend, a nurse in private practice, a quick call.
"Healthcare benefits?" I ask.
Her response, "Fully funded."
As for time off:
How many other professions require continuous coursework in graduate school and the attainment of at least a Masters degree in order to maintain employment?
When does this happen? When the kids aren't in school.
As for job security:
Has anybody talked to the 1,400 Cleveland teachers who were laid-off this year?
As for admiration:
Those of us in teaching must learn to take the sour as well as the sweet.
Granted, Some of us earn the respect of our students, and may even develop close relationships with our kids and their families. I am blessed nearly every day with at least one student who will call out, "Love you Ms Matt!"
Yet, on that very same day I, or any of my colleagues, will also hear, "Bitch" or "Go f_ck yourself" or "I don't have to listen to you a__hole!". These are phrases so common they no longer shock. They are a part of our job.
Another part of our job is dealing with disgruntled parents. They are far more vocal than the appreciative ones. There are very few teachers in an urban district who have not had this conversation with a parent on the phone:
"Listen, I am sick and tired of you goddamn teachers always calling me up. I can't do anything else with that f-ckin' kid. When he's in school he's your problem."
Finally, addressing the sports analogy being applied to education:
Why would one apply a practice that doesn't work in sports (Remember, Cleveland fired Bill Belichik? Where is he today? Where are the Browns?) to educating inner-city children?
As NCLB demands accountability from public schools, the ultimate solution that NCLB offers when a school fails to acheive the mandated goals is to turn the school into a tax-funded charter or tax/voucher funded private for-profit school with NO mandated public accountability. For-profit schools, as private businesses, may keep their records closed to the public.
Perhaps I am a bit jaded, but it looks to me like the fox is guarding the hen-house.