Wednesday, May 1, 2013

It's about perspective

"If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 25 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn't want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher's job." -Colman McCarthy in The Washington Post
"First of all, I’ve calculated your earnings by adding your classroom hours, pre- and post-school hours, conferences and phone calls, weekend work, after-hours grading, professional development requirements, lesson planning, team meetings, extracurricular clubs and teams, parent correspondence, district level seminars, and material preparation, and I believe you make approximately 19 cents an hour.
And then people say, yeah but teachers get three months off for summer, and then we all clutch our guts and die laughing because WHATEVER, MAN. Like teachers leave on the last day of school and just show up on the first with a miraculously prepared classroom and a month’s worth of lesson plans. But seriously, thanks for the laugh."
Thank you Jen Hatmaker, for taking some time to appreciate teachers. Sometimes it feels few and far between. And it occurs to me that maybe anyone in policy-making positions should gain the perspective Ms. Hatmaker had--of actually being a teacher.

I've heard people say that everyone should experience working in food service. And I agree--if you did not already have it, it helps to learn basic common sense and decency. It was amazing working in my college dining hall, how rude and clueless people could be. And these weren't random people--these were my peers, people I respected, liked, took classes with, partied with, etc. These were really bright young adults. Like, I know they all can read--yet how many of them blatantly ignored reminders to, for example, place dishes on a tray before sending it down the conveyor belt, lest the plate get stuck and back up the whole process. Not only was there a big mess of piled up trays, dishes, and leftover food, but one of us had to descend into the depths of Mordor to unstick your stupid plate. But enough of my dining hall worker rant.

Point being, similar to why everyone should experience working in a service job to gain a new perspective, everyone should try stepping in a teacher's shoes. Especially anyone in a position of power to make policy decisions about teaching and education. It seems to me that a lot of people making decisions about education come from a very privileged perspective--upper class white males who likely went to ivy leagues and send their children to private schools and are thus wholly disconnected from the plight of most US school children. That being said, I am being totally stereotypical and putting things in black and white. But even so, a lot of decisions made about education seem to be very disconnected with what is best for students. Decisions are made without taking into account the opinions of those in the trenches, as it were. The people who know what is best for our students is not some random guy in DC, but our teachers, who know and work with our students every single day. Like Prop 227 which essentially did away with most bilingual education programs in California--when we know that bilingual education for English Language Learners leads to better educational outcomes. Not only do they get to maintain their first language, but it helps improve their English proficiency! It's really a win-win in every situation, but that's not the way the law was written.

So before you make any decisions or judgements about teachers and education, walk a mile in our shoes. See just what it takes to be a good educator--especially one with limited resources. Then walk down the road and walk a mile in another teacher's shoes because every classroom and every group of kids is different. It complicates matters, but hey, that's reality. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for the education issues facing California and the United States, and the sooner those in power realize that and find a way to give schools the resources they need for ALL children to succeed, who knows, maybe we'll start to climb in those rankings everyone seems to care about.