A reader comments on an earlier post by a Chicago teacher who explained why he was striking:
I was a high school teacher in New York City, and I agree 100% with Kevin. Before teaching in NY I was a public school teacher in Hong Kong. What struck me the most about teaching in the US is that teachers here are expected to be “supermen” and “superwomen” who should be able to turn classrooms of kids, no matter how difficult and how little support they receive from parents and politically-driven administrators, into high-achieving academic-minded students.
The worst schools in Hong Kong have their own school campus (buildings and playgrounds). In NYC, 5 schools share one building, and the students are shut in the classrooms the whole day with only one lunch break. Their gym class takes place in a parking lot.
The American culture, more than any I have know, places supreme importance on glamour, fame, money, beautiful bodies; modeling and entertainment industries are highly esteemed and looked up to. Teenage sex is not eschewed upon in the name of freedom; public school teachers are mandated to hand out condoms to students who ask for them.
Teachers, day-in and day-out, have to fight this up-hill battle against the overwhelming larger culture, to tell students not to take short cuts or the easy way out, that having boyfriends to show off and thinness are not as important as hard work, kindness, and discipline.
“No,” the administrators say, “If you class is interesting enough, students will be engaged and they will do better in their grades.” And so if anything goes wrong with the children, if they are not learning, it is the teacher’s responsibility!
There are irresponsible and horrible, lazy teachers in the profession, just like in any other profession, but the system and the treatment of teachers–which largely comes from being ignorant of what the teaching job entails–make it extremely difficult if not impossible for the ones who have the heart to teach to do it.
Being Asian, I’m shocked and appalled at how little respect the teaching profession receives in this country, as reflected in the political dialogue, from both Republicans and Democrats, and in the salaries teachers receive compared to other professions. Get this, on the salary chart that I received when I first started teaching, the maximum salary that a teacher could ear was a little over $80,000K, that is, if the teacher possesses a PhD degree and has taught 25 years.