Where Have All the Teachers Gone?

Gone are the glory days of education. Gone are the days when teaching was a respectable profession. Instead, teachers are devalued, disrespected, and in despair. It used to be that a teacher had the respect of the community in which he or she worked. It used to be that teachers were valued for their contribution to the making of America. After all, teachers do pave the way for all professions. But, today, teachers are targets subjected to blame at every turn. Test scores low? Blame the teacher. Schools failing? Blame the teacher. It’s an interesting game that will soon have devastating consequences to the American landscape.

However, the shocking truth is that teachers have very little, if any, input in what happens in a school. More often than not, teachers are the last to know what’s happening in the school. What gets taught on any given day is mandated by others who far too often have little to no educational background other than having attended grade school. In a country that says it values education, its people sure have a funny way of showing it. Every time there are budget cuts that need to be made, the first place our political leaders take from is education. What’s hard to understand is how this is helpful. If the system is in dire need of repair, and if students are not being properly serviced in the areas of reading and mathematics, then how is taking funds from an already struggling system going to help?

Politicians seem to think that they have the answer to all of societal ills, but they can’t even agree on something as simple as a can of sprite. Yet, they feel empowered enough to say that pay for performance, or merit pay, is the solution to the educational problem. That is the wrong answer. All that merit pay will do is cause teacher resentment, and many teachers who are great teachers will loose faith in what he or she does. Just as the republicans can get democrats to agree on any issue, teachers face the same opposition from students and parents alike. They teach everyday as if the very breath they breathe depends on it. Yet, due to various policies and other red-tape, they are hindered. State and national testing that provides a cookie cutter measure of education isn’t always an effective measure of how well a student has mastered a concept. Many students do not test well. Yet, these score drive everything. It would be interesting to have a politician try to do the job of a teacher for just one day.

Moreover, parents are just as guilty of blaming teachers for everything. Yet, instead of taking time with their children to have quality study time, they’d rather put a child in front of the television with the X-Box or Wii. Many students spend more hours on Facebook, and other social networking sites than they do engaged in study. Many students don’t go to bed at a decent hour, and come to school too tired to perform. Yet, it’s the teacher’s fault that these children are falling behind. And, when issues of discipline arise, the first response of parents is “My child didn’t do that.” Parents have taught their children to be excuse makers. Many students know that if they get in trouble at school, mom or dad will come to school and “tell you where to go.” But, when asked, parents will say that the teacher is not doing all he or she can to help their child. A certain teacher called a parent to alert the parent of the child’s failing grades and poor behavior. As this teacher began to explain the problems, the parent interrupted and said, “From the hours of 8:15-3:30 he (the child) is your problem. Don’t call me again unless there is an emergency.”

Teachers have been called glorified babysitters. Well, if that’s the case, pay them as if they are. Most in home child care providers charge at least $125 dollars per child per week. Most teachers teach at least 25 students per class. Middle and high school teachers teach upwards of one-hundred students a day. So, dear parents, for your child’s education each year please deposit a check of $4500 per teacher as soon as possible. After all, all that teachers do is babysit right?

And, no, teachers do not get paid for summers off. And, contrary to popular belief, teachers don’t get overtime. Yet, they are expected to work from home to get grades done, meet with parents before and after school, sponsor clubs, and be members of several school and district committees. Teachers are expected to be confidants, counselors, friends, leaders, planners, mothers, fathers, and food providers. All this on top of the demands placed on them by parents and the other elected officials. It’s no wonder that by year five of teaching, many good new teachers have walked away. The stress of this job is overwhelming. Yet at every turn teachers are being blamed. Far be it for a teacher to request a raise for all of the work he or she does.

Don’t get me wrong, the passion that a teacher brings to his or her craft is incredible. The fact that many teachers arrive to work an hour before their paid day begins and stay hours after is nothing short of amazing. Teachers are constantly told to take classes, at their own expense, and earn advanced degrees. Many teachers live check to check, but are happy to do it for some intrinsic joy that imparting knowledge to the youth and future leaders of the country brings. Many teachers go home and grade papers, plan lessons, and purchase supplies for students out of the little money they do have because they believe in what they do. Many teachers provide morning and afternoon tutoring at no charge because the children are important to them. Teachers take the blame and take it some more because at the end of the day, it’s all worth it. To see a child read and comprehend a text, to watch a child understand an equation, to see a child learn how revolutions have changed the world, it’s all worth it. The fight is real, but teachers are ready.

So, when asked where have all the teachers gone? It is my humble opinion that they’ve not gone anywhere. They are right were they have always been. Resilient and strong they stand. Taking the beating, the persecution, and even dealing with the undue stress that leads to many health issues, they stand. Yes, they are fed up of being being the punching bag for societal ills, but they’ll keep on fighting. A little respect is all they ask for. A decent living wage that is comparable to those who are equally as educated and working in other professions is what they want. But, even if that doesn’t happen and they are still blamed for everything, they’ll keep on educating the masses. Great teachers are still teaching. Have you noticed?

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