Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Teachers on Strike
I want to get to the heart of the Teachers Strike in Chicago. Although I worked in the education system for a number of years, I've never been a K-12 classroom teacher. I have a lot of admiration and respect for the work that teachers do. If you follow my blog, you know that I have discussed in the past the need to invest in our teachers.
Most educators don't become teachers because they are seeking tremendous wealth. If you ask most educators they will tell you they knew at an early age that teaching was their "calling". So, while money is certainly a factor, it is not the main concern.
Our teachers are consistently being asked to do more with less. Class sizes are growing. Loopholes are put in place to have "waivers" to increase class size. Experienced teachers are being laid off. Because of their longevity and loyalty, their salaries are at the high end of the pay structure. Many schools rationalize that they can hire two new teachers for the price of one experienced teacher.
When we lose experienced classroom teachers we see the impact later. Experienced teachers typically have better classroom management skills, fewer discipline referrals, lower drop out rates and greater parent involvement. Newer teachers tend to have less skill in classroom management and more discipline referrals. In general, newer teachers tend to focus more on "teaching to the test". This is great for increasing standardized test scores, but not so great when our goal is to teach students how to learn and to increase the graduation rate.
Are teachers right to be concerned about an evaluation system that is so focused on the outcome of standardized test scores when the school systems are not investing in educators?
Teachers are getting by with little or no "real" professional development. They are using their own money to provide basic needs for their students....paper, pens, crayons, glue. They are playing the roles of teacher and parent in many situations. They work extended hours without extended pay.
America needs to prepare our next generation to compete in a global economy. An investment in our teachers is an investment in America's future.