Teachers, an Article Based on Opinion Based on Knowing Teachers
By Kathy Adams 2012
My mother was a school teacher. She taught in a little one room school for a while back in the days when students were taught and promoted according to their individual abilities. Somehow, she, and other teachers throughout less recent history managed to assess these students, make decisions on how best to bring them along in their educations, and implement their plans. These teachers were subject to a school board for appropriate things like money and deciding what the required basics such as reading, writing and arithmetic would be taught and would hear why if it seemed this was not happening. Social studies and sciences, art and music may have been taught as well, where and when the situation and demographics permitted. There were rules, but few enough to remember and apply without encroaching upon the main goal…teaching students.
I believe trust played a big part in this system. The school board trusted that the teachers they hired had been educated and qualified, which is why they were chosen and then they were allowed to do their job. Again, that job was to teach, and much was learned by most.
By the time my peers and I became students, school was a larger, more managed thing, and rightly so, since the population had grown to proportions that were unmanageable by an individual or two. Still, a teacher was trusted to function effectively within his or her, mostly her at that point, curriculum with guidance and support of a principle and an expanded board of education. Reading, writing and arithmetic were still the foundations of learning and other subjects were being required to fill out a rounded curriculum.
In the years since then I have seen changes come about that stagger the imagination, and reflect a loss of basic trust in the teacher to know the job she or he had spent years and growing amounts of money being trained for. Teacher control in the classroom is nearly stymied. The micromanagement from without hamstrings a teacher’s creativity, concentration on students and their needs, and causes such stress and frustration to said teacher that many quit that might have toughed it out if it were a matter of knowing that they just had to hang in there until they found their stride, their style, their confidence.
What teacher, today, in this country, can have much confidence other than what officials have given them? They spend as much time or more worrying about and monitoring their politically correct micromanaged performance than they do thinking and acting in the best interests of each child they are responsible for.
Teaching has always been a challenging job, not meant for just anyone. It is a special calling for only those who truly care about children and the world they will live in. It is for those who want to be an influence on the influence those children would have on the world, even if only in their own little corner of it. How do we thank these dedicated people? We undermine, under pay, under value and underscore every fault we can find. We over work, over rule, over criticize and over spend their budgets, but not so much on their behalf, and thusly on the children’s behalf.
My husband is also a teacher, and this may sound a bit like sour grapes but I promise you, my reader, it is an attempt to bring awareness to the public that I write this article. The fact that he is the most amazing, caring, wise and creative special needs teacher I can imagine only punctuates my point. His pay does not reflect the extra hours he puts in, trying to make things just right, most effective and just plain good for the kids he works with, nor does any teacher’s I am sure. The benefits are good in some ways. Hey, who would not love so many vacations? Other benefits are better than not having any, but not great. At least he has a job with benefits and no one is threatening him with part time work, yet, where he won’t qualify for benefits anymore like so many people in our country today. And yes, it is personal because I see him suffer and try and care and bang his head against bricks. I also see the rapture in his face when he talks about a student who finally “got it” or when he feels he had a good day with the kids, or when a parent actually thanks him rather than berating him for not giving a better grade even when undeserved. I use him because he is my personal and direct example, because he is that, an example of what is going on widely in this country today.
I am a teacher. I never went to school to learn to be one. I am educated but not to teach. I have had seven full time students in my life. I refer to my children and my two of my grandchildren who until recently lived with me and I raised while their single mother worked. How can I say I am a teacher? What qualifies me? We are all teachers to whatever degree we choose to be. We offer guidance and instruction to others on a daily basis. We all have a lot to offer. Raising children is only one example of “unqualified” teaching. What on earth am I talking about this for? It is my thought that as humans, if we are not hermits we are teachers at some time in some way in our lives, throughout our lives. Our human instinct, in most cases, drives us to help others, share our knowledge, offer guidance and praise accomplishment. All this before formal teacher’s training. So why can’t we trust our teachers? Why can’t we back off and let them do their jobs? Why can we not see how we are limiting our children’s chances of success by limiting our teacher’s options?
As a society, we know that some people succeed and some fail. Children are no different. Some succeed greatly while some perform in mediocrity. This is part of life. Failure is needed to balance out success. How can anyone enjoy success if they have nothing to compare it to? What makes it special if that is all there is no matter the performance it is awarded to? I say let the children fail who need to fail, and let’s do our best to help them along from there both academically and emotionally. If we keep rewarding mediocrity or failure just so no one will suffer bad feelings of any kind we will eventually render out good and bad and be left with only blah. I have failed many times. Sometimes it has brought me down in nearly unbearable pain and sadness. But let me say this. When I recovered I was stronger. And when I succeeded it was oh, so much sweeter. It is life. Let it be.
Just as government, over time has encroached on our personal and intimate liberties, the educational system has overstepped its boundaries. I say it is time to empower the teachers to do the jobs they were trained for, to take so much bureaucratic stress out of the equation, and allow them and our precious students to benefit from the love and concern that drives our teachers to do what they do in the first place. Let teachers teach. Find a way to pay them what they are worth, and insure the future through our wonderful children.