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Friday, June 12, 2015

Teachers need help if we want to see success

From a teacher and reader

I admire your bravery Chris, and appreciate your attempts to fix what is broken in the field of education.  I wanted to write so many times, but hesitate because I was taught primarily if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything.  Also, I learned that complaining without a solution is called whining.   While I don't think you fall into either of the those categories, that's what the bullies will say, and I don't have your intestinal fortitude to stand up to those bullies.  I would like to make the following comparisons, however, since it seems that schools are 'businesses' now and as such I have become less of a 'teacher' and more of a 'corporate' employee.   Our schools are 'brands' apparently and I'm pretty sure blockbuster didn't blame the associates that worked there for the demise of the company.  I'm pretty sure it was because the management did not adapt to the changes and threats of netflix, hulu and so forth. Making a comparison like that to dedicated teachers on the last day of school is kind of a cheap shot...and an invalid analogy. 

I worked in the business world for decades before following my heart and becoming a teacher...oh yeah, and back in the day (ten years ago) the powers that be considered themselves in a shortage of teachers, and they lured teachers in with false promises of college tuition reimbursement (The state of Florida 'unfunded' that program). There was a time, not too long ago I might add, the state considered themselves in a critical shortage of dedicated professionals to teach the populations most vulnerable kids.   Now,  I guess they decided that anyone can teach special education children, because more and more I see teachers without training just thrown into the vacancies that are being created by the mass exodus of skilled special education teachers.  Who, in the business or world of education, wants their pay based on the progress of children who are handicapped?  Our legislators did not think that through, or maybe they did and simply do not care. 

In the business world, I would not be expected to travel (community based instruction) without some form of communication with the base of operations.  So, teachers use their personal cell phone with obviously, no reimbursement.  Teachers are also expected to use this phone to call parents since the only phone in the school that makes long distance calls is the one in the front office.  Many parents have long distance cell phone numbers, it is just the way it is these days.. they move here from where ever and keep their out of town cell phone number.  We have no way to contact them unless we use a personal cell phone. 

In the corporate world, employees are treated with respect in regards to supplies and basic considerations.  What school, what teacher has a decent and clean restroom to use?  Employee break area? How about an ergonomically correct desk and chair?  These are corporate considerations business employees are treated to, and can't imagine that a teacher gets whatever they can scrounge up or provide from their own pocket.  I'm pretty sure a doctor or nurse does not have to provide their own bandages but somehow  teachers have to provide pencils and paper for their students..or printer ink..or copy paper..or..incentives for their students...   What professional office person needs to stand in a line once a month for 'free' stuff from a hot dusty 'depot'  after work hours on their own time using their own transportation? Oh, and only get a few bags of things at most. 

Teachers are expected to manage and make progress with their students with hands tied due to lack of appropriate materials.   Trainings in the corporate world did not look like sales presentations for a product employees can not fully utilize because of lack technology. Also, if teachers were to mention the 'detail' that while this software looks great, the county didn't provide the hardware to use it, they'd be  labeled as being 'negative' by the people who are supposed to be in a role of support. 

So many corporate people assume teachers are on some kind of 'vacation' during the summer.  Excuse me, but it's a 'break' and there's a reason it is called a break. Business people also don't consider  the detail of the expectation to attend trainings and prepare lessons while school is not in session over the summer without compensation for time in the form of payment.  We're off, business people, without pay, unless we saved over the school year to make it through eight weeks without paydays.  Get that? 

Teachers can not pick and choose their team like like a manager could chose staff in the business world.  If a corporate employees did not do his or her job (show up, finish a project) they were consequences. But teachers are being held accountable for student behavior. In the business world, the manager would be able to hold the employee accountable. OH, but student's are children.. yes I know.. but they still should be held accountable, or at least, their parents should be. If they don't learn personal responsibility in school, where will they learn it?   The ramifications for assault in the business world is expulsion, I am pretty sure the employee would be escorted out by security to never return, turn in your badge and we'll put your stuff in a box.  I do not think any excuse for fighting or bullying or violence should be tolerated in a school, and yet it is. Fighting is a crime in the business world, and the lack of discipline teaches children that there are no consequences for criminal behavior, so maybe that is why we are starting to see mayhem in the community as well.  

In the business world, managers are usually seasoned and experienced in the area of which they are designated to manage.  Teachers see a revolving door of associate principals, many who have absolutely no experience in the area of which they are responsible. So, so, at a school there are managers assessing a situation, without a basic knowledge of what to assess.  Or, honestly, what expectation can you put on a PE teacher, for example, that has eighty students in a class.   

In the business world, employees who stay around awhile were treated with respect and their loyalty rewarded.  What teacher around here gets a token of appreciation for years of service? The powers that be have figured out that a teacher's biggest weakness is their love for the profession and for children.  That's why I stay, I come from a long line of teachers in my family and many of whom are now retired and shake their heads and offer me their sympathy as they say "I do not know how you can do it".  Well, I must, because it is a passion.   I just wish, the people making the calls would spend just ONE day in the  shoes of a classroom teacher and understand.  I have seen first year teachers leave for the day, and never return, not just once but several times.  Most teachers who aren't passionate about their kids and the job, leave on their own. Bad teachers are usually run off by the students themselves. Yes, there are slacker teachers, just like there are slackers in any profession, but that would be the exception, however the majority are taking the beating for the failing of a few.  

I hope this does not come of as whining and or complaining because that's not my intention.  I would like for people to just understand.  The problems are bigger than any solution I can address without support from businesses, parents, leaders and the community.  Even IF someone does not have a child, society is impacted by the children that are here, and we all have to pitch in and make sure these kids get what they need, without a corporation offering a better option, when basically, those charter schools are running a profit, taking tax payer money without accountability, undermining the value of having highly qualified and dedicated teachers. 


  1. Thank you for writing this thoughtful piece that expresses what many of us are feeling.

  2. Yes, thank you. Many people want to make the issue of education a simple, easy problem with a simple, easy solution. Your explanation clearly exemplifies the complex nature of educating a child.

  3. This should be required reading for JPEF, Chartrand, Gates ... all of the corporate do-gooders. Well said.

  4. You were able to articulate many of the thoughts I have on a daily basis. Well said.

  5. This was everything I have been thinking! I shared this on Facebook and tried to spread the word.