Nov 17, 2009

Teaching Ain't What It Used to Be

I have a friend who is a very enthusiastic 4th grade teacher. She loves to teach. She loves the kids. She is full of energy. She is positive, encouraging, and just a blessing everywhere she goes. Parents request that their child be in her class, because she has such a good reputation.

She is rethinking her career path.

How can someone so excellent rethink something she does so well? Because teaching isn't what it used to be. One thousand teachers a day quit teaching. NCLB has mandated so much record keeping and reporting, there are so many special-needs kids in her class, class sizes have grown because of budget cuts, that she really doesn't get to teach much any more. She spends more time in "redirecting" kids with disruptive behavior than teaching the "normal" students who are there to learn.

Let me get this straight. The teachers don't get to teach. The bureaucrats in the state and national capitals sure aren't in the trenches teaching. It's a cinch they've never tried to teach sugared-up first graders how to subtract. They're passing more and more requirements that strangle the school schedules, leaving no money or time for electives like Social Studies, computer, music, or art. They've removed the element of joy from the profession. Sounds like a recipe for burn-out.

Don't wonder why your child comes home complaining that their teacher is "mean." She had to "redirect" all day, every day, 180 days a year. Don't wonder why Johnny has 3 hours of homework to do in the evening. Classroom time was taken up by the disruptive students, who needed to be "redirected" time and time again.

When teaching was teaching, a lot of teachers were excellent. But behavior management and documentation are not subjects you are taught in Teacher College.

It's about time Teacher Colleges started teaching reality instead of theory, don't you think? Maybe then there would be fewer pie-eyed graduates with visions of making a difference in a child's life. If they raised the bar on admissions, it would reduce the glut of teachers looking for work. If they gave them more student teaching and less theory, these would-be teachers can see for themselves what it's like in the trenches.

Only the truly committed would stay in the program. It would reduce the turnover of teachers leaving the profession in 5 years or less. If there were fewer teachers graduating, the schools would have to pay more to attract the best teachers.

The teaching profession would be valued more if the Teacher Colleges themselves valued excellence over money.

If only, if only.

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