Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thoughts on Teaching in America Today

I found this in my email box this morning and thought I would share it with all of the teachers out there. It speaks to my early post, Weeds. Pass this along to everyone that is feeling the grind of teaching. It's important to know that we are not alone.

From Michigan Public Radio

MP3 Link
Teacher: Stop Blaming Us for Budget Woes

Keith Kindred (2010-03-25)
SOUTH LYON, MI (MICHIGAN RADIO) - I'm a high school social studies teacher recently proctored three days of state mandated tests. The rules kept us from doing anything else while the students took the tests except watch them bubble in their answers. No reading, no grading papers -nothing.
I like to daydream by nature, but my idea of torture is being forced to do nothing for hours, so instead I thought about all the work I had to do but could not. I also thought about my golf swing and I thought about health care reform and what President Obama should have done differently.
But mostly I thought about all the anger directed at my profession these days. I thought about the ubiquitous teacher bashing I witness in the mainstream media and wondered what we have done to deserve this.
Part of me gets it completely. The economy, especially here in Michigan, has been in free fall. The first people to lose their jobs in the The Great Recession were from the private sector. They resented those of us in the public sector who were still working - especially those with summers off.
Well, if it makes you feel any better, it was only a matter of time before we public servants would feel the effects of the deepest economic downturn since World War II. We're losing our jobs now, too.
But before you wallow like a happy hippo in a pool of schadenfreude, you should know this: The United States will need more than one million new teachers over the next twenty years. That's on top of the more than three million public school teachers we have now.
In response to this demand for teachers, I propose the following: Why don't all the teacher-bashers become teachers themselves? After all, our job is easy, our pay is extravagant, and our Cadillac health insurance is the bees knees.
We teachers, we're just livin' it up and the club has a million projected vacancies! Actually, there will be even more openings because, as we veteran teachers know, half the people who enter the profession will leave within the first five years.
You might discover, however, that teaching is not as easy as you think. I worked for a wholesale lumber company for seven years before I was a teacher and I used to tell people that there is more pressure in business, but way more stress in teaching. However, in this new era of testing madness, now we teachers get to enjoy copious amounts of both stress and pressure.
Five times a day I face 30 or so students who look up at me and give me approximately 30 seconds to persuade them to cooperate with my lesson. All this testing, by the way, simply makes that harder to do, but if I'm successful, it can be a wonderful class period and a rewarding endeavor. If I'm not, and even the best teachers are often not, it can be a physically and emotionally grueling day.
Funny that so many people leave such a cushy job, isn't it? Ten extra credit points to the first one to explain why.
In all seriousness, the anger and scapegoating directed at teachers reveals a gulf between what the public thinks it knows about our jobs and the challenging reality we face. I know you went to school yourself, but there's a world of difference between the student and teacher point of view.
I've been a teacher for nearly twenty years and I've never seen so many of my colleagues disillusioned and beleaguered. I can't claim to speak for every teacher, obviously, but ask others and I'm certain they'll agree that both morale and job satisfaction has never been so low.
For those of us who still have jobs, we're grateful and lucky to have them, and in Michigan anyway, the compensation is generally more than fair. But if you think this job is easy, or that we became teachers for the prestige or the pay, you don't know us - or our profession - at all.
There's plenty that needs fixing in America's schools, and teachers need to accept their share of the blame. But you could fire all three million of us and you know that wouldn't solve such a complex problem as the state of America's education system.
Despite your apparent resentment toward us, deep down, I think you know that's true.

© Copyright 2010, Michigan Radio

If you are not in education and read my blog, please tell the educators in your life how important you think they are. Right now, we are not feeling the love. Have a great Thursday!


  1. The teachers are the easiest ones to blame. You know how we have take your kids to work day? Maybe we should have take your parent to school day but they get to be the teacher, not the student. Don't judge me unless you've walked a mile (1.6 km) in my shoes may be cliched but is as important as the golden rule.

  2. Thanks for sharing this link! Testing time always brings to the surface our many frustrations... Everyone needs to be a part of the solution.

  3. This is exactly the issue with Education - the old "I went to school as a child and therefore I'm an expert on issues in Education" problem. Thank you for sharing this eloquently written piece. Having left the classroom for a private sector job (albeit still directly linked to teaching) I too have a unique multi-faceted view of teaching, and I whole-heartedly agree with the author. The pressure in private business is nowhere near close to the stress, work hours and frustration I felt as a teacher. I think all non-teachers need to carefully examine the reality of the classroom before they pass judgment!

  4. Wow! An amazing post and just so true. Parents often can't wait to get their kids back to school after 2 weeks' holidays, so imagine having a classroom full of them every day for 40 weeks and ensuring that they all learn what the state decides they should. Spot on.

  5. That pretty much sums it all up doesn't it? I think that the general public forgets that we aren't just dealing with their child (the perfect angel) we have kids from all walks of life, all abilities, all emotional extras, etc. We don't have a class of fully functioning, well behaved, great home life kids.

  6. What an eloquently written piece! Thank you for sharing. I count my lucky stars daily that I live in a place where teachers are not being fired, and to teach in a school where most of our community truly values what teachers do for their children. We do have some testing, but it is not yet (and hopefully NEVER) high stakes. Thank you to those of you who face these challenges daily and still go to work each day and make the lives of the children better!

  7. This echoes my same frustrations I had with teaching. I think we need to do a better job of asking parents and community members into our classrooms because most of them have not a clue what the day to day life is like for a teacher.

    Our school participates in the Jr. Achievement program where a business person in the community comes once a week for several weeks to teach hour long lessons about business from a pre-developed curriculum. Our business volunteers couldn't believe how difficult it was for them to hold the students' attentions. They were surprised by how hard it was for them to present material to the class in a way that wasn't boring. I wish everyone who bashes teachers could have the experience of teaching for just a day in a real classroom.

    I can echo the author's sentiment comparing his business career with his teaching career. Having left the classroom to start a company, I can honestly say that as stressful and pressure filled as my life is now, it isn't the same intense stress that I experienced while teaching.


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