Originally Posted by Crazygopher
I've read a good number of these posts, and I have recognized the wide variety of perspectives on this board. What I have noticed, however, is a lack of true authority. Only a couple of people I have read are speaking from experience on this topic.
I am a young teacher finishing my third year of teaching. My father is a teaching veteran of 34 years and counting. Here's the reality of teaching in MY life, and it is not as pleasant or as equal as some may wish to persuade others to believe.
I have three college degrees. I have a degree in English Literature from the University of Washington, an institution that had, at the time, one of the highest rated English departments in the nation. I graduated with a humble 3.4 GPA or so. I have two more degrees from Eastern Washington University in Secondary English (teaching degree) and History. I graduated with roughly a 3.6 or 3.7 GPA. I have an IQ of about 145-150. I dropped Computer Science (which I had a 4.0 GPA) because it bored me, and I felt it would not make a difference in this world. I am not an exception. I know many highly educated teachers. The old saying, Those that cannot do, teach, no longer applies. It was I that helped many of my friends, the computer science and pre-med students, write simple essays because I knew how (and these were top end students making 3 times what I do now). While I completely agree there are MANY teachers that are undereducated or poor students themselves, I don't like generalizations that include me, so please show some respect to those of us who are life-long professional learners that take our education seriously (believe me, I turned down college football to focus on my education).
Next, let's talk about pay. My first year in teaching, my base salary was about $34k. My second year was $36k. This year, I make about $35k (I changed school districts which I will explain later). Not a bad salary, really. Except when I compare that salary to my classmates from school that make $60-$80k starting in their jobs. Now, I love teaching and I love coaching. To me, they are one and the same, just a different classroom. Last year, I made an additional $13k coaching four sports (middle school). I was happy making nearly $50k a year as a second year teacher. But the trade-off would be the 7.3 hours I was contracted to work, the 3 hours I spent coaching, and the 2 hours I spent every night writing lesson plans and researching. THAT WAS EVERY DAY. Not once in awhile. Every single day I did that. I had no breaks. I worked myself so hard that I was nearly hospitalized once because I neglected my health (i.e. sleep) and ended up with a 104 degree temperature that put me out for one day (believe me, missing work is usually not an option unless I'm so drugged up I don't know what day it is). With the in-service days we had before the school year, I worked about 2200 hours this last year. I made approximately $22/hour. That is a very low wage for a college graduate with 3 degrees, in my opinion. But, that's just me. You don't have to believe me, but then again, many of you aren't living that life.
What about Jobs' argument. It's a good one. I fully agree with him in many respects. For example, principals should fire bad teachers. If a teacher cannot cut it, then they need to be removed. The problem is that this isn't always the case. I changed school districts, like I mentioned earlier, at the cost of a $10k pay cut. That's a lot of cash to a teacher for those of you who no longer look at your pay checks or stock earnings. I left under "pressure" from my principal. It went down like this. He didn't like me. He didn't like me for the fact that I was slightly arrogant, young, extremely popular among the staff, teachers, and students, and that I was one of the most successful teachers in the building. I say this not to boast on myself, but I am confident in this assertion based on the compliments from parents, the progress my students made while in my course (standardized and non-standardized testing), and the feedback from fellow teachers. As a mentor of 40+ years experience said to me following an observation, I had the mind of a teacher far beyond my age. However, my principal disliked me. And he made it his mission to dismantle me and get me out the door. The principal the year prior gave me exemplary marks, as has the principal this year at my new school. But this one man had absolute authority over not only my job, but my career as a teacher and my life. I endured a year of hell working for him, only to come out stronger and better than ever. Do we see the inherent problem with allowing principals the ability to fire? While I despise the union more than most, tenure is a beautiful thing when you run up against someone like this man.
How do you define a good teacher? Standardized tests? Hardly. This is simple math. I work in a very small rural high school of approximately 80 kids. So let's take a single tested class of roughly 20 students. Now, on average, about 15 of those students, or 75%, will pass all portions of the state-mandated test. Now, NCLB states we need to increase to 16, then 17, then 18, until we reach 100%. With the numbers we have, if one student does not pass, that's a difference of 5%. See the problem? So how do we judge teachers based on one student having a bad day? Are we saying that if a teacher has 90% of his or her students pass a standardized test, they are not considered "good"? This doesn't even bring into the fact that the tests are ultimately subjective any way you look at them. It's an inherent flaw at the fact that no test can be created to accurately assess everyone, only the simple majority (which has been middle-class white males in the past). That also doesn't take into consideration that we give every student a chance to succeed despite their ability level, unlike our European and Asian counterparts that track students. As a side note, the reason why foreign countries are outdoing the U.S. on test scores are because they test those who have been tracked into upper tier programs. We test everyone. If I tested only my AP students, we'd be right in the mix of it with everyone else. Like any statistic, you will find whatever you want to find (including my own assessment).
But it has its drawbacks. Poor teachers do linger on. I've seen teachers who worry more about their personal problems or what they are going to do on the weekend than their kids. I spend the vast majority of my day talking to kids, not teachers. Why? Because I need to be in their world to understand how they think. If I get a grasp of who they are as young adults, I'm that much better in the classroom, which is why I remain successful. Some teachers don't have a clue about the kids. They don't involve themselves in their lives. This is due to laziness and habit, for sure. But this is also due to the restrictions our society has placed on teachers. A kid hugs a teacher; it must be sexual, right? We are actually taught how to hug (one arm hugs that remain to the side and for no more than 2 seconds). How sad is this society that we have to teach teachers how to hug a child correctly to avoid legal ramifications? Many teachers are afraid to even involve themselves with their students for fear of misinterpretation and possible lawsuit. It use to be that people would prefer
their children attend a movie with a teacher; today, that's seen as a potential situation for sexual contact and abuse.
What about parents? Are you one? Ask yourself how often you discipline your children. Are you assertive? Are you consistent? Do you simply tell them what you expect, or do you scream and yell? While I'm not expert in telling people how to raise their kids, I'm not your kids' parent either. Yet so many parents choose to simply let their children attend school so they were occupied during the day. I see several students everyday that make racist remarks, curse, threaten, and even challenge authority in the classroom. Teachers are there to teach, not discipline. Yet I find myself being the parent of many students, and I'm only 10 years older than they are! I'm lucky in the fact that I have the ability to naturally lead students and control them productively, but I cannot attest the same for some of my colleagues. The fact is they shouldn't have to. They should be focused on teaching.
How do you handle this issue? It's a series of problems that will persist indefinitely until we choose to fix them from all angles. Yes, teachers need to be paid more. Yes, teachers need to be fired if they are, in fact, poor teachers. But the problem goes beyond the obvious. It goes far beyond the politics and structure of our education system. It will revolve around the simple notion that people are ignorant of the realities in today's classrooms. As long as parents, politicians, citizens, administrators, and teachers (yes, teachers) fail to see the big picture and how all parties, meaning all of you and myself included, are responsible for these failures, this whole issue with education will never go away. When everyone decides to put egos aside and focus on what's important (our children), then things might happen. Jobs is starting in the right fashion, I believe. Throw it out there, create controversy, get people talking, and make things happen. If you have read to this point, thank you for taking the time. I apologize to anyone who I may have offended or any overlooked grammatical/usage errors. This is merely the humble opinion of one teacher, not the opinion of those of my profession. Thank you!