Waiting For Superman

9 10 2010

Waiting For Superman made me worry, and I’m glad. Because now, I get it. And I don’t want to forget:

I’m worried that the US education system has become more about the adults, and less about the kids.

I’m worried that many teachers simply don’t care enough to give their best to students. Perhaps they become teachers for their own reasons, and that may be a reason why so many teachers are bad. Straight up, bad.

I’m worried that the Teachers’ Unions make it nearly impossible to fire bad teachers. We fire a much, much higher percentage of incompetent doctors and lawyers than we do teachers. I don’t think tenure should exist for High School teachers.

I’m worried that a lot of sleepy, tenured teachers will never see this movie.


Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3:1

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4 responses

9 10 2010
Tammie

I am worried that people think nothing of what teachers go through everyday and are quick to blame us for every fault that exists in the school systems. I have yet to see this movie, but I don’t like that you are blaming teachers for being lazy or apathetic. I am expected to be at work at 7am. I teach from 8-3, followed by meetings almost everyday until 4:30. After that, I have to grade papers and plan lessons until 8 or 9 pm, after which I can finally eat dinner. On the weekends, I grade larger projects AND take college classes because I will lose my liscence to teach if I don’t continue my education. In all, I get about 4-5 hours of sleep a night, and about 1.5 waking hours to myself each day. I am exhausted and have no help at work. I am expected to give up my life like a nun to worship this absurdity of the education system, with very little to no reward.

What about my students? What about their responsibilities? I have 33 students cramed into my room each hour and in my non-gifted classes about half of them complete the assignments. I offer credit for late work, they don’t do it. I offer extra credit, they don’t do it. I call home and plead with parents for help, they say they have more important things to worry about. Maybe they do. Maybe this nation has deteriorated so that feeding ourselves really is more important than getting learned.

But the problem is NOT with the teachers, whom you paint as selfish and lazy, it’s with society. We place more value on fame and celebrity than on being a well-rounded person capable of independent and critical thought. Don’t you think as educators we’d love to see our students be successful? Maybe if we’d stop decorating our Facebook pages in support of our favorite sports teams and starting praising scholars or our favorite high school teacher, then maybe we could turn things around. Maybe people would jump through hoops of fire to become teachers – revered and beloved teachers who were compensated fairly for giving up their lives to further the ideals of a great nation which was founded by people who put their lives on the line for a mere thought of freedom and democracy. But most people have better things to attend to as there is a Wolverines vs. Spartans game on today.

9 10 2010
Angela Duncan

I am sure you’re an amazing teacher! I should add a big thank you to the awesome teachers out there. I don’t want to give the impression that I think ALL teachers are part of the problem. Just some of them. Sorry if you were offended, Tammie. I started with the statement that the education system is at fault.

I still remember the amazing teachers I had, and have written them letters of thanks throughout the years. They really made a difference and I appreciate everything they did.

9 10 2010
Anne

I agree, there are great teachers out there, and tenure is a way of protecting those teachers. It allows for (often times healthy) conflict to take place between admin and teachers leading to a more thoughtful education for students.

Administrators spend their days worrying about staying in their jobs. That means 2 things, usually: Money & PR. Charter schools & schools of choice have actually increased this pressure on admin. The increased high-stakes testing and other components of No Child as made it nearly impossible to think of anything else these days.

Issues like academic rigor, student push-out (don’t get me started on that one!), grade inflation, etc. are key battles raging today in addition to academic integrity and freedom — like teaching the unpopular concept of evolution in science class.

A principal ( & now superintendent) I know once explained the research findings of a study investigating teacher effectiveness. This guy is not a real pro-teacher guy; actually, he’s fairly terrifying. The first 5 years of a teacher’s career are not his most effective. Teachers are just getting into the groove. It’s a pretty tough job with a pretty steep learning curve.

But years 5-10 or 15 are a sweet spot. Teachers have the expertise, knowledge, and energy to really connect, adapt, and inspire. (It slowly drops off after 15 or so.)

HOWEVER, the career 5-15 years are also the years most families have children of their own. This principal HATED, and I mean HATED maternity leave and that sort of thing. Principals have been known to ask illegal and inappropriate questions of women during interviews about their future repro plans. Tenure protects the rights of women (and men) to reproduce and keeps them in the workforce during their most valuable years as educators.

Tenure protects teachers from unfair dismissal in all sorts of ways. The teachers who are really effective in the classroom may not always be the ones who make a big splash for PR. There’s a reason there’s the stereotypical football coach who “teaches” healthy class by showing movie after movie while jotting down plays. BUT, this guy is the apple of the admin’s eye every fall.

It turns out that investing in kids, especially the ones who are in need of the most help to be successful, is often a fight that must be fought against the ravages of poverty, neglect, and administrators sometimes, too.

Teachers are the driving force for change in schools. They have the real interactions with students. They go to the mat for them every day.

As for getting rid of the duds? It’s actually a pretty easy process, at least in MI. It does involve documentation, however. That means that the admin need to get out from behind their desks and walk into the classroom and be a part of things.

Teachers also need to cultivate a culture of excellence among their staff instead of getting irritated at the go-getters for making the rest of them look bad. It’s divisive, counter-productive, and unprofessional — and it’s hurting our kids.

I haven’t talked about parents or kids because those are not things within our control as educators. I can’t make a kid go to school. I can’t make a parent actually parent, especially in those all-important formative years.

Without the protection of tenure, it’s tough for a teacher to say anything in conferences that might be twisted by a manipulative parent.

Eliminate tenure, and you eliminate the ability of teachers to stand up, do what’s right, and make some waves.

Good teachers are unsung heroes, and we risk losing them if we eliminate tenure.

9 10 2010
Angela Duncan

Awesome insight into the teachers’ perspective. It sounds like the problem lies within the bureaucracy of the administration. Yuck. I’m all for rewarding and keeping the amazing teachers – teaching is one of the hardest jobs in the country.

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