At last, an article in the mainstream media that tries to understand why teachers are troubled! It’s not the New York Times or the Washington Post, but still…it’s in print.
Roger Williams of the Fort Meyers, Florida, Weekly titled “Troubled Teachers.” He dwells at length on the stresses that have changed the nature of teaching, not for the better.
Williams interviews many teachers, who tell him what is happening in their classrooms.
“At least one disturbing conclusion can be drawn from what they tell us: Teachers now face what is arguably the most difficult and demanding stampede of challenges in the contemporary history of public education. And that’s not good for students who face, in turn, a range of contemporary social challenges they might not have experienced en masse in previous generations.
“For teachers, there is less time than ever before to teach, they say. There is data crunching and lack of trust and constant state-mandated testing of stressed students. Teacher evaluations and one-year contracts are based on the success of students as measured in tests created by people who don’t teach. There is pay that will not cover the costs of education and family life.
“In the face of all this, what makes a great teacher, we asked them — and conversely, what makes it difficult to be a great teacher? Why are so many leaving a profession so essential to our futures?
“Teachers are ill-prepared for the demands of the current system. So it’s not just a matter of how to make better teachers. It’s also how teachers are made to work within their system now,” says Sandy Stenoff, co-founder of The Opt Out Florida Network, a grass-roots organization based in Orlando that advocates a variety of assessments instead of a single, state-mandated test.
“If you look at other professions, the ‘masters’ all have one thing in common,” she adds: “Excellent mentorship — an expert under whom they really trained, learned the best ‘techniques.’ Doctors, lawyers, even craftsmen.
“We don’t do that in education anymore. It would help to reduce attrition, too. But expert teachers are leaving. They can’t teach the way they know teaching works best.”
Never before have state and federal governments imposed their will so forcefully in every public school classroom. Their often I’ll-advised intrusions aim for standardization, making teachers and students alike unhappy.
“If the system has massive weaknesses right now, it also has very good people, it seems — people who advocate passionately, even when they leave.
“Can all this be changed? Yes,” says Bruce Linser, a musical theater teacher and outgoing dean of dramatic arts at the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach.
“I think we need fewer administrators and more teachers. We need fewer people telling us how to do our jobs, and more people who know how to do this, and want and love to do this, being allowed to do this. Without all the strings and standardization. I’m not arguing against oversight, I think that’s important. There are things that need to be taught and learned and I totally agree with that.”
“But all the extra duties of teachers — the extra programs and management requirements — inhibit the teaching they’re called to do.”
Low pay and lack of respect are part of the reason for teacher discontent. Florida ranks 39th in the nation in teacher pay, and many teachers must work a second job to make ends meet.
Very likely, one of the reasons that hedge fund managers and billionaires look down on teachers is because they are paid so little. Instead of recognizing that teachers sacrifice financial security for being in a career that makes a difference, the 1% simply don’t understand why people choose to teach and feel justified in trying to redesign education and teachers’ working conditions.