Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I’m Confused

Here are the teacher-related news stories from around our great nation that the diligent folks at Google e-mailed me today:

* “Rockford School District to Lay Off All Nontenured Teachers” (Rockford Register Star)

* “Senate Bill 6: Unfair to Teachers” (The Ledger)

* “Teacher Tells Students to Punch Classmate in Face” (

* “California’s Quality Blind Layoffs Law Harms Teachers and Students” (Los Angeles Times)

* “Teachers Ask About Their Job Futures” (Tulsa World)

* “Indian Prairie School Board Eliminates 145 Teacher Jobs” (Chicago Tribune)

* “NJ Gov. Chris Christie Calls for Teachers, School Workers to Accept Wage Freeze to Prevent Layoffs” (The Star-Ledger)

* “Daley Spars With Teachers Union” (MyFox Chicago)

* “Edwardsville School District Lays Off 60, Including 25 Teachers” (Belleville News Democrat)

* “School Reform Has U.S. Grant High School Teachers On Edge” (

What do all of these stories tell us? With words like “layoffs,” “harms,” “on edge,” and “punch,” it’s pretty clear that for teachers, the news is bad.

So why am I confused?

1. Why is all the news bad? Surely there is some good news about some teacher somewhere. I’ve met and spoken with many teachers and parents, so I’m certain of this fact. But the media seems to focus on stories about teachers behaving badly or getting the boot.

2. Why doesn’t our society respect teachers anymore? When I was in school, parents and students respected teachers for the contribution they make to society and the impact they have on our lives. Now, they’re publicly disparaged, not only by the media, but also by the federal government. Chastising teachers is now public policy. To receive federal “turnaround grants,” school districts must fire at least half the staff at low-performing schools or close them. President Obama came out in support of the very public firing of the entire faculty at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island.

If you want to know the general attitude toward teachers, ask finance expert Suze Orman. In my blog entry on May 28, 2009, I expressed my discontent that Ms. Orman told The New York Times Magazine she feels teachers are not empowered and have no self-worth. She couldn’t be more wrong. Teachers have a profound impact on the lives and futures of children across America—a powerful position and a fulfilling experience.

The groups that protect and support teachers from all of this backlash—teachers unions—are vilified by the media, school districts and the government.

3. Why can’t parents and teachers get along? When their child is performing poorly or behaving badly, who do parents usually blame? The teacher. A few of them may have good reasons. But in many cases, if the parent would make an effort to express their concerns to the teacher in a constructive way, listen to the teacher’s point of view, and work together with the teacher to address the issue, they would be making a big contribution to their child’s academic progress and personal growth (see my August 12, 2009 blog post, “Building a Successful Partnership With Your Child’s Teacher”).

As with most relationships, the disconnect between parent and teacher is often the fault of both parties. Teachers are frustrated by some parents. But if they would reach out to the parent in a positive way, they could accomplish a lot together (see my August 19, 2009 blog post, “Building Successful Partnerships With Parents”).

Many parents and teachers have cooperative, successful relationships that greatly benefit the student. But many don’t. Parents and teachers share the same goal: the academic success of the child. They would have a greater chance of realizing this goal if they worked together as partners.

Despite all of this bad news, dedicated, talented teachers across the country are inspiring, supporting, guiding and mentoring children in their classrooms. They’re pushing aside all of the negativity that’s swirling around them and doing their jobs. It’s not because they make a lot of money—they don’t. It’s certainly not for the praise and gratitude. And if you think it’s because they get summers off and work until 3 o’clock, you’re buying into some big misconceptions about the teaching profession. Most of them do it because they want to make a difference. And for that, I admire them, and I’m grateful to them.

But if the attitude toward teachers continues to deteriorate, how many gifted, motivated, altruistic college students are going to pursue a teaching career? Our education system is the foundation of our society. I don’t think it’ll function too well without any teachers.

1 comment:

  1. It is confusing. Natalie is absolutely right in that a well educated public makes for a strong social foundation and we are a social network, like it or not. What went wrong in the public education system?

    We became disconnected from each other. We can't find the time or place to stop and listen to hear the other side. Arguments on both sides have some validity. And there is not one issue in education right now that we can not solve.

    But we must start now by stopping this forward momentum that is taking us in a direction that may very well dismantle the system. We must speak out now, TODAY, with a united voice.

    "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." MLK