Saturday, March 5, 2011

Minnesota Teacher's Thoughts on Wisconsin

On a Daily Show montage I saw a Fox news correspondent remark that teaching is a part-time job, what with our summers off and being done before 3:00. This justifies stripping teachers of their negotiating rights.
I'll admit, the few weeks off in summer are nice, if we're not teaching summer school or taking classes to update our licenses. It still doesn't make teaching a part-time job. Because I have two small children I probably spend less time than I ought to grading and planning. Still, I teach six courses a semester, which means I have close to 200 students. That can add up to roughly 600 assignments a week to grade. I also have four classes to prep for. There is no possible way I can spend less than 40 hours a week on this job and still function.
I'm not the best example. I have friends who stay at school until nine o'clock at night getting ready for their classes the next day.
But put the time issue aside, and still we don't just deserve negotiating rights, we need them. There are all sorts of issues that would probably never occur to someone who is not in the profession.
For the sake of self-preservation, I'm stating right here these are all merely hypothetical:
  • What if a teacher starts getting their classes overloaded - say more than 40 kids per section? Should they be paid more? Keep in mind all the extra assignments to grade.
  • What if a teacher is told they need to teach extra sections of something, and thus lose their prep hour during the day to grade and plan, with the addition to the extra responsibilities? Should they be forced to comply?
  • What if a dedicated and effective teacher has ideological differences with an administrator? Should their job be at risk?
  • What if a teacher has an overcrowded class full of kids who have not had good opportunities in life? They move from school to school, receive little to no parenting, and their skills are not at grade level. Say this teacher works very hard to try and prepare this class for state testing, but despite their best efforts, without adequate support many of the kids still fall through the cracks? Should this teacher be penalized?
  • What if a teacher is falsely accused by a student of verbal or physical abuse? What if this teacher is actually in some way abused by a student? Who will protect this teacher?
I'm not saying any of this has happened to me, or to anyone I know personally. But all of it HAS happened to teachers in the past, and it will happen again. That's why bargaining rights are vital.

Of course there are bad, lazy teachers out there. But most of the teachers I know work very hard, care a lot, and are tired of hearing how the nation's schools are failing students, and if we all just did this one more thing, if we cared a little more, or if we tried a little harder, the problems would go away.

The problem is, there is no good way to hold parents accountable for their kids failing. Holding the kids accountable is often counter-productive. So we blame the teachers, because nobody knows what else to do.

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