My friend and fellow blogger/writer ‘Tee’ posted that plea on my previous post. She’s had a rough couple of weeks – a lot of real ‘high’ moments with a couple of very ‘low’ moments thrown in.
Most people don’t understand what teachers do – good ones or “bad” ones. I have some thoughts on that.
First of all, I yield to no one in my desire for fiscal responsibility and Constitutional fidelity. I think our government has grown far beyond what is healthy for any of us. We’re looking at the ‘government’ as if ‘it’ were alive! and was actually an authentic producer of wealth and safety. It isn’t. Counties and cities depend on tax payers. While all public servants, from garbage collectors to the mayor and governor, pay taxes (property, income, sales, licensing fees, etc), we don’t produce wealth. We provide services for those who do produce wealth. We collect their garbage, teach their children, archive and process information on their behalf, and care for them when they’re sick, injured, or threatened. But public servants have to be a minority of the citizenry – not a majority. Consider this quote from Alexis de Tocqueville, from his classic work Democracy in America (circa 1835):
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”
We are far beyond that point; this nation is bankrupt. We cannot produce enough to pay off the national debt and fund the entitlements. Period. There is not enough money. Period.
NEA members can call me a ‘tea bagger’ til they’re blue in the face. There is no more money. This is NOT a ‘democracy’. The US is a constitutional republic. If you don’t know the difference, read both The Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers. Read them very carefully. Pay attention to Jefferson and George Mason.
But at the same time, people need to stop making teachers – even bad ones – scapegoats. Elementary teachers have about 25 to 30 kids they spend some six hours with and try to instruct them in half a dozen subjects. Middle and high school teachers have up to 125+ kids they see for about 45 minutes a day. Teachers do not have staff. They copy, collate and staple their own papers. I know some schools do have a dedicated person to run copies, but many more do not. Teachers have about 20 minutes for lunch and more often than not work through part of that short time. They do have about 45 minutes for a ‘planning period’ during which time they look up parent contact information, try to make a few phone calls, run off some more class sets of work and wish they weren’t constantly teaching to whatever tests the legislators have mandated. I have a very good friend who is a very good teacher. Recently she told me she didn’t feel as if she’d taught English in three years – she felt more like she was running a year long test prep course, like Kaplan’s LSAT or MCAT preps. Because we have this myth of measurability, teachers are essentially just teaching to a test. That is not real learning, but since only teachers are held accountable for success or failure, they’re going to do what they have to.
Unlike private business, teachers can’t reject kids whose work ethic is non- existent. We are obligated to take whatever walks in the room and try to make him/her believe in the joys of our subject. We compete with MP3 players, XBox, WiFi, Wii, Facebook, cell phones and text messages, sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.
Look here’s the deal, folks: teachers in general, and public schools in particular, have to deal with not only kids in various stages of growth (including hormonal), but with parents who put their sex/social life ahead of their children, with 15 year olds who cannot read, with what the late Pope John Paul II called “the culture of death”. Come spend a day in school with us. Look at what the kids wear. Count the facial piercings, the tattoos. Look at the t-shirt graphics. Then take a look at some of the parents.
Teachers – our producers of wealth can’t endure the financial burden any longer, so stop demanding benefits we can’t afford. You non-teachers – teachers aren’t your enemy nor are they the source of your problems. Stop right now and define what you mean by “good” and “bad” teachers. Define your terms! And let’s see some better role modeling from all the adult sectors.
You want higher test scores? Don’t fire the teachers. Reject this culture of death. Until you do, nothing – not one bloody thing – will change.
Go do your own research on this and get back to me. Until then, Tee and I will be at the beach, soaking up sun and sipping on margaritas. It’s five o’clock somewhere.