Teaching Truth #5: It’s a Flawed System

When I originally started this blog, my intent was to stay away from this particular teaching truth. My reasoning was this — I was afraid if I made this point, people would consider leaving the profession, rather than being encouraged to stay, as is my intent with this blog.

Yesterday, during lunch with my new supervisor, who incidentally is a former teacher herself, the topic of why she left teaching came up. Some of her thoughts rang true with me and I began to wonder – should I put this on the blog? This morning, I opened my email to find an interesting article, published in EducationWeek, which was originally published in January, 2008, entitled Human Resources a Weak Spot. I’m not sure what made me read it, as the title doesn’t exactly sound interesting to me, but I did. What I found was another long commentary on the things that are broken in teaching as a profession. I decided to add my two-cents worth, so here I am.

The system is flawed.

Only in teaching can you start on day one with the same responsibilities you will have after 30 years on the job. You will be thrown into a room of seemingly hungry students and feel like you must have french fries and cheeseburgers smeared on you.  If you manage to struggle through, develop a plan, and become a good teacher, you will be sitting at a desk after school is out with words like sheltered instruction, differentiation, rigor and relevance, scope and sequence flying all around your head while the teacher in the next room decides what lengthy video to show their kids the next day or what worksheet to have them do – the same thing he or she has done every day for 20 years. You will get less money than that teacher does because of their long years of service. You will have exactly the same benefit package. You will begin to wonder if there is some way you can advance yourself.

There isn’t. That is, unless you think moving into school administration is an advancement. That would be a topic for another post, but I’ll just say that I personally don’t think it’s an advancement.

So why am I telling new teachers this? Being armed with the truth going in can advance your potential for success. Going into the profession with the real truth for an expectation can keep you from becoming disillusioned. The truth is, if you want growth, you’ll have to take comfort in personal growth. Become involved with an organization outside of school that can give you, during volunteer hours, a feeling of advancement. Take some classes or work on your Master’s degree. Some teachers work towards national certification. Whatever you do, be happy that you are striving to be the best you can be.

There is hope – you can also be part of a move towards reform. Think about positive alternatives to the current system. Try to work towards making changes, in baby steps. Become involved with a group of educators who share your concern. Don’t sit in the lounge partaking of the complaint sessions. They will depress you and are surely not motivators for positive change.

Hang in there – you are a teacher for a reason – hold on to that.

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2 responses to “Teaching Truth #5: It’s a Flawed System

  1. The rewards for the teaching profession are primarily intrinsic, as you describe! Many are drawn to the teaching profession because of a desire to impact young people (which DOES indeed happen, though the feedback is often not immediate!) or a love for content (which is not a good fit unless the love for students is a higher priority). My interest in the educational career came from the desire to learn and thus, your advice for creating a personal learning network resonates with me! Knowing why you make a choice infers that you have taken the responsibility to research both the pros and the cons of each alternative, but I sincerely doubt (unfortunately) that most take the time to go through that decision-making process or at least not thoroughly….Thanks for your thoughts – I’ll be sharing with new teachers!

  2. I agree with you whole heartedly. The advancement comes from within. You have to do it yourself, for yourself. I learned a long time ago, that you’ll sit and wait a long time, and maybe it will never happen if you are waiting for a sincere pat on the back. When you leave to go to another school, no one begs you to stay. Sure they’ll miss you, but the bell rings again the next day. But, you CAN make a difference for those you touch. It is the kids who will remember you and they will remember the moments. Not the testing moments, but the volcanoes you ruptured, the rockets you blasted off (sideways in my case) and the two different black flat shoes you wore on parent night.

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