The Irascible ProfessorSM

Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
"Modern cynics and skeptics... see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing.".... ....John F. Kennedy.

Commentary of the Day - March 6, 2007: Why I Hope My Children Won't Become Educators.  Guest Commentary by Rick Fowler.

"Teaching to the tests will help our children learn specific material and plus it could be worth a lot of money if they score well."  Though not verbatim, these words are echoing in many state government halls as politicians and administrators seek alternative ways to obtain funding and to look good when the test results come back.  However, few people realize that this approach has been studied and: "According to a study released by the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University and the Great Lakes Center for Educational Research and Practice, the pressure associated with high-stakes testing has no real impact on student achievement."  (San Antonio Express News)

In other words for those state and educational leaders who felt pressured to join this circus, "there is no consistent link between the pressure to score high on a state-mandated exams, and each state's student performance on the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress)".  As Roddie Stinson states in his column for the San Antonio Express-News, “For more than twenty years, the nation's educational and political establishments have touted the standardized-test-as-God philosophy as the solution to the nation's academic shortcomings.  And the media establishment -- like a baby bird with mouth agape -- has swallowed the worm without a peep.  These elite groups could never admit their foolishness…could never confess that they took tens of billions of dollars designated for improving public schools and blew it on educational hocus-pocus that was doomed to fail and that enriched no one but testing companies, high-dollar consultants and political demagogues."

I can't imagine my children, if they had visions of becoming educators, having to go through the political, social, monetary, and blatant disregard for common sense which public school teachers are forced to endure.  It is no longer about teaching.  It is about teaching to tests, mapping, going through Kelly services to find a sub, lessons plans that have the state guidelines in them, being out in the hall, taking roll and putting grades in computers that might function for weeks and then shut down.  It's about calling home after a student is tardy twice because the office is just too busy, calls from the office to your classroom, calls from salesmen and parents to your classroom, and trying to maintain order through the myriad of other interruptions.  It's about lowering grading scales so kids can feel good about themselves, so administrators don't have to face the wrath of parents who complain that teacher X "is unfair and the grading scale used is archaic".  It's about stressing compliance, honesty, fairness, and trying to justify what happens to those who can't abide by the rules (but have been busted three times for the same offense and never suspended).

Nope, I won't encourage them to become teachers.  I love my children too much to aide them in their attempt to go into a lion's den full of educational gurus who know what's best for schools, but who have no teaching experience or have only taught for a few years before becoming an "expert" in the field of education.  I can't be positive if they do choose to become teachers.  How can I be positive about a teaching careers when these same experts are making double and triple the salaries that most teachers make, and they don't have to answer to anyone?  How can I be positive when I see school districts that create a position and then hire, almost on a whim, a "guy who has done so much for the community" but who has never been in the classroom?  How can I be positive when I see colleagues who receive excellent evaluations on the  lessons they teach, and who have an excellent ability to communicate with kids, receive negative evaluations from an administrator because they "Did not send all grades on time every time"?  Now there is a surefire way to keep morale up!

I can't imagine my children coming home from school at the end of the teaching day, and preparing dinner, playing with their children, getting  the young ones to bed after homework and baths, and then settling in to 2-3 hours of correcting papers.  If that's all that was required it might not be too bad.  However, when politicians and administrators pile on extracurricular events, it becomes a game.  It's not a game I hope my children decide to play because they cannot win. That is unless someone takes the game ball home and refuses to play until everyone is treated fairly, equitably, and sensibly in the academic arena.

But then again, the negativity can be erased in a heartbeat when a young student says "Thanks for teaching me.  You really did make a difference in my life."  Perhaps the magical quality of innocence can stave off the arrival of cynicism in the realm of education.  Perhaps my children said this to one of their own teachers.

2007 Rick Fowler.
Rick Fowler is in his 29th year of teaching high school English in Boyne City, MI.  He has also been a varsity football, basketball, and cross-country coach during his tenure as a teacher.

The IP comments:  Rick expresses well the frustrations that too many teacher feel today.  Often this frustration causes the better new teachers to leave the profession early.

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