Who could blame the teachers? - The Explorer: Columns

Who could blame the teachers?

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Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 4:00 am | Updated: 10:48 am, Thu Sep 13, 2012.

With Chicago teachers officially going on strike after this week, the nation and media are now looking at the necessity of having teachers in position, but also the lack of pay and how they should be evaluated. As a CNN columnist wrote this week, American historian and journalist Henry Brooks Adams once said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

Yet, in today’s culture, these people who impact our lives are paid very little.

According to the New York Times, in America, teachers are paid 14 percent less than other professionals in jobs requiring similar levels of education. Sadly, teachers’ salaries have steadily declined over the last 30 years, and will likely continue to do so.

Now, we have the rising concern that with low pay, long hours and poor benefits, teachers are starting to say enough is enough. Chicago teachers went on strike this week, teachers in Wisconsin fought for bargaining rights in 2011.

To be fair, Chicago teachers didn’t go on strike over pay so much as it’s over the evaulation system the mayor wants to implement. That evaluation system is tied to test scores.

However, even though we always have dicscussion around teachers’ pay and performance, there’s really not a shortage of teachers.

The thing we overlook so often is that these people we ask to teach our children want to be there. They willingly go into this profession knowing there is a lack of respect, and knowing they will probably never get rich.

Are there bad teachers out there? Of course, it’s just like any other profession. You have those who are great, those who fall in the middle and those who really aren’t very good.

Should there be some kind of evaluation system for teachers? Absolutely.

But, are teachers getting burned out? Yes. Can you blame them. No.

Teachers are the ones we blame. If test scores fall for a district, it’s the teachers who get the blame. However, instead of giving them the resources for success, we pass laws requiring higher standards, but rarely provide incentives or funding to reach these new requirements.

Look at the Amphitheater School District. Last year the governing board passed a resolution making it possible for the principals of two struggling schools to get a $10,000 bonus if the schools performed well in the coming year. However, that resolution said nothing about the teachers having to implement these hardline changes.

Sure, there’s the argument that the principal gets blamed, and could lose his/her job if the school continues to perform poorly, but still, those teachers are the ones with our kids day in and day out.

Look at Arizona, we continue to decrease the amount of money being spent in the classrooms, and you have plenty lining up to blame the schools. It’s time to lay blame on more than just our teachers.

Besides states like Arizona continuing to cut funding for education, districts themselves also need more attention. Look at the salaries administrators are making today. They can’t give up some of their pay to make teachers’ lives a little better?

My level of respect for teachers increased this year when I started volunteering in my daughter’s first-grade classroom once a week. Her teacher does a fantastic job with about 25 first graders.

For me, I am charged with handling five of them at a time in reading or writing groups. I struggle to keep the five students at a time focused, and yet we have this teacher doing it everyday with all 25 of them at once.

I see my daughter’s reading level improving every day, and I can tell her teacher is devoted to these children.

The fact that she has been in the business for more than two decades says she isn’t there to get rich, she’s there to make a difference in their lives.

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