Since Judah was born and he started public school I’ve learned a lot more about our Georgia educational system. I wouldn’t call it eye opening per say but it is certainly a sad state of affairs that makes me extremely angry. The one thing I was surprised to see was how similar it is to corporate America. You know…those who kiss ass the most and can play a mean game of “I scratch your back and you scratch mine” … move up the pay scale and position ladder. And for those who question the system, make others accountable and/ or expect to be compensated for their hard work are given the scarlet letter. Those who stand up against the injustices are the ones who are ostracized when they speak out. It’s interesting… The way teachers are being treated is no different than living with an abusive spouse or parent. What do I mean? Well, think of it like this. In the case of domestic violence it’s common for the abuser to physically and mentally beat their victim down to a level that allows the abuser to maintain control over them. And in the case where the victim may gain the courage to defend themselves, the abuser will twist the situation to justify their abuse… in the eye of the abuser it is never their fault and always the victims fault. Now take that mentality and lets look at our educational system where our teachers are the victims. I’ll let you figure out who our abusers are in this scenario.
OK, so lets look at this scenario of abuse. Now, I’m going to do a more cursory overview. Of course there are many finer details I am leaving out but it’s the overall point I’m trying to make that I feel is important. First, lets go back twenty plus years ago. Back then a teacher was responsible for taking a clear defined curriculum (that didn’t change quarterly due to the direction of the wind) and to teach that material to their students. They worked a 40 hour week (give or take). They were given actual planning time during the day so they could have time to put their teaching first. It was understood the teacher could only do so much and then it was the responsibility of the student. The teacher had the power to make the student accountable and the administration supported their teachers. Teachers were compensated for working extra hours (when they took on extra responsibilities). They received a pension or at the very least a good retirement plan. Hell, teachers back then even had time to sit in the “teacher’s lounge”. Remember those? They were private spaces where teachers could let off steam… talk to other teachers to get ideas…AND get this…TO RELAX and take a breather.
Now, fast forward to teaching today. Damn, where should I start? Well, first of all teachers are expected to work beyond their 40 hours a week. Often they have to take hours of paperwork home to do until late at night and over the weekends. And the paperwork being done is not usually directly related to their teaching or their classroom. Oh no. It is usually something the higher ups want done to prove the teacher has been teaching. So, this then requires the teacher to stop teaching and frequently give a certain generic test that is state approved and said to be a good evaluation on how students are learning. The irony here is how many grammatical and spelling mistakes are in those tests. Thank goodness the makers of those tests aren’t hired and fired based on their “performance”. Back to the tests, though… they don’t take in account the disabilities of many of the children: emotional or intellectually. The tests are a one size fits all (and hopefully your child fits it). Want to know the best part? Yes, there is one. These tests have to be given in multiple subjects and given multiple times a year. AND teachers are graded on their teaching? Doesn’t that require them to have actual time to teach? Oh, I’m sorry…that’s just too logical. Silly me to point out the teachers are spending more classroom time administering these state required tests than they are actually teaching the students. Oh and the logic gets even better. Even though the teachers are given less classroom time to teach, they are directly responsible for each of their (up to 30) students to learn and comprehend that year’s required curriculum regardless of their disability. A child of a parent who did drugs while pregnant and that child clearly has brain damage…never mind…put them on the college bound track. Even when that child has a low IQ and it’s proven she will never rise above because of the damage her mother did to her while pregnant, gosh that doesn’t matter either. Haven’t teachers heard of “No child left behind?” AND never mind that same child struggles to understand a simple story read to her and can’t keep up with her assignments because the curriculum is already way over head in the fourth grade…don’t you know the only reason the child is struggling is because the teacher is not doing her job? Really…that is what they are told.
Now, I’m sure there are some of you out there who feel the success of the student does lay directly on the teacher. Sure in theory that sounds good. Hell, that’s how corporate America works so why not carry over some of those same work ethics into the teaching arena? And you’d be correct except for a few little points. I don’t see an employee of a top Fortune 500 company taking on that kind of accountability and then accepting a minimum wage salary… I also don’t see an employee at a top Fortune 500 company accepting being told they have to work for two weeks out of the year without getting paid for it. After all shouldn’t they do it for free simply because they love what they do? I don’t see a top Fortune 500 company employee working in an office that leaks when it rains (resulting in mold) and buying their 30 employees (under them) all of their office supplies for a 9 month period. Yeah, I don’t see that happening. Most employees of major companies are given rights. Rights that include expense reimbursement…getting paid for the hours they’ve worked and quality working environment. However for some reason we don’t see that our teachers (let alone our own children) deserve those same rights. Excuse my language but what the fuck people?
Folks, I must ask. At what point is this abuse enough? Let me recap here. Our teachers are working at least 50 hours a week…they are being told they are lucky to have jobs and therefor should accept their bad working conditions. They should want to give back to their communities by accepting their low salaries. Having the title of “teacher” should be enough and they should be obliged when they have to work for free. AND they should understand and accept that even if a student doesn’t have the capability to learn it is still the fault of the teacher. OK, am I the ONLY one here who sees this as abuse? And yet, our teachers continue to take it. Why? Why do they accept it? Why aren’t our administrators standing in solidarity with our teachers and stopping this in it’s tracks? Why aren’t our teachers standing up in solidarity with each other and demanding this to stop?
Listen, I think back to the times of segregation. It was a time where many also became complacent about what was happening. After all, there wasn’t anything they could do, right? And if there was it would have only brought possible danger to them and their families. So what was the point? Isn’t it best to just keep quiet and accept what is happening even if it’s wrong? It’s certainly easier for the ones who aren’t being abused to go home, shut their front door and pretend it isn’t happening. But what about those who are being mistreated? How do they pretend? How do they just keep quiet and accept their fate of being less than the others? Well, during that time of segregation, many did. Even those who were being abused and knew it was wrong found themselves more afraid to stand up to the injustices. The uncertainty of what could happen if they stood up stifled them. Understandable. I get it. HOWEVER, thank G-d for those who were willing to take those risks. Thank G-d many thought better of themselves, believed they deserved more and were willing to spit in the eye of their abusers. AND most of all thank G-d for those who chose to stand up so those generations after them wouldn’t have to walk in their same shoes.
And so, what is it about teachers? What kind of person decides to go into that field?Hell, it isn’t as if they are appreciated. Well, I know the answer. They are intelligent, selfless people who tend to put their needs last. They don’t get joy from their paycheck (alone) but joy from that child who finally understands that math problem or finally works to their potential. Teachers do their job because they get satisfaction from helping our children grow. For them it IS ALL ABOUT the love of their students. Their students always come first. Teachers want nothing more than to have our children achieve their highest potential. I think too often we forget they are on our team. I’ve got to tell you folks, our teachers work as hard as (if not more than) any corporate America employee. I am so grateful that in spite of the conditions our teachers have to work they return day after day to inspire our beautiful children. To me that speaks volumes to the character of our teachers and the true love they have for their jobs. I think in many ways this is why teachers become good targets to beat down and abuse. We know they will always return and most of all we know they will never stand up and speak out. It’s not because they have become complacent. Hell no. It’s because they actually have their priorities straight by always thinking how it will effect their students. Again, they put themselves aside regardless of the conditions they have to work and make the students their focus. I’ve got to say, folks, I don’t know many who could work under the same conditions and still keep committed to the reason they chose to teach. That alone is commendable and deserves a gold medal.
HOWEVER…yes, there is a however. No teacher should ever have to work under the conditions many of them are having to work under. It’s insane…it’s cruel…and bottom line it’s abusive. I understand standing up for themselves goes against who they are as teachers but it’s time this crap stopped…it’s time our beloved teachers joined forces and showed “they system” they are valuable and they will no longer be knocked down. Come on, folks, how many more years are you going to allow others to mistreat you? Haven’t you had enough of this bullshit? How much are you willing to take before you will stand up? Or is it you’d rather walk away defeated allowing the abusers to continue their behavior to those who come after you? Listen, I understand standing up for oneself comes at a cost. I’ve been there and I have paid the price. It wasn’t easy but I wouldn’t have done it any other way because I know I deserved better. Our teachers deserve better. In my situation, though, I was the only one who stood up. The others around me were too afraid and weren’t willing to pay that price in exchange for a better future. Yes, I was disappointed and no, I didn’t get as much accomplished as I could have with more standing by my side, BUT I did what I knew was right for the sake of my future.
Folks, I believe standing up and protesting against how we are being treated does make a difference. Hell, our history books are filled with pages exemplifying that point. BUT in order for that change to happen it must come from those very people who are being mistreated. It must be their voices we hear yelling out. Of course it helps to have others stand in solidarity but the wheel must be held by the very people who will benefit from that change…they must be the driving force.
As much as I love and respect teachers I realize this is their fight. I know it is at the cost to our own children but that is the price we all pay for not standing up sooner. It’s time we STOP focusing on “fixing” our teachers. Hell, they don’t need fixing. Instead, it’s time we look hard at our educational system and those who are at the root of the real problems. I say who better to dig deep and get to the bottom of it than those who are on our front lines…our teachers.
To all of the teachers out there… I ask, “How much longer are you willing to sit at the back of the school bus? When will you stop making excuses? AND, finally, when will you realize you have the right to demand what you deserve… that seat at the front of the school bus?