We the Teachers

Teaching in any form is not for the lazy. It is not for the weak. It is not for those who throw in the towel when things get tough. Because trust me, things get tough, a lot.

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The world of education is imperfect. The system was set up with wonderful intentions, and a great way for children to learn and progress. Unfortunately this wonderful plan was created and developed by imperfect people, as we all are, so naturally there would be flaws.

As an educator it is difficult to muddle my way through such an imperfect system. There is a constant overload of upcoming professional developments and combating research techniques. It can be really overwhelming and down right discouraging to have people preach at you about what you should be doing better. “Oh and you need to improve in these 100 areas on top of everything else you do” is the message I hear.

Recently my school district changed to merit based pay. Basically, my pay now depends on how my 1st graders perform. Great motivation technique, right? If that’s not operant conditioning I don’t know what it is. Funny how the big wigs are using conditioning techniques to supposedly improve teacher performance, which we all know is actually test scores that reflect on the district and in turn the state. If my 1st graders test scores are good, or they show improvement from pre to post test then my pay can increase. If they do not then my pay and possibly my job will be in jeopardy.

Let me ask those big wigs sitting in their cushy swivel chairs behind their oakwood desks, who haven’t taught in a classroom in years, a question. Does merit pay take into account Shelly who has accidents daily because of a history of abuse? Is my merit pay based on Our New Friend with special needs who is not getting the aide supported required for her to be successful in a general ed classroom? Is my merit pay based upon the choices of parents and how they choose to raise their children? The parents that send their children to school in dirty clothes, with grumbling tummies, and sleep deprived eyes? What about the student that has been ripped away from her mom and comes and tells me daily how sad she is?

What about the children whose basic needs are not met at home? Are they expected to learn and preform well on a standardized test when they went to bed without blankets in the middle of winter? Why is my pay  based off of my daily heartaches that I cannot  control?

If more effort, money, and concern was devoted to those children, to educating parents, to uplifting exhausted teachers, teachers wouldn’t burn out in just their first few years. Upcoming college graduates would consider a career in education, and we wouldn’t be facing a massive teacher shortage.

We are drowning, and all we get in terms of support is a dingy life boat that can’t support our needs. Those big wigs need to wake up and stand up on the side of teachers and children, instead of manipulating us into doing our jobs. If you need to manipulate teachers, some of the most self-sacrificing and hard-working people I know, to do their jobs, take a step back and reflect on the other possible antagonists to the system.

Don’t blame the people working for barely any pay, the people buying underwear for her student that has daily accidents, the people arriving early and leaving late because they love their students and are actively engaged in meeting their needs. We, the teachers, already see each child for who they are. Do you?

They are not a standardized test score, or a mere number. These children are living, breathing organisms that can do so much more than what a test will tell you. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in assessing the child, but I do not believe in creating a stressful learning environment for them to be assessed. By basing educators pay on the test scores of students that assessment environment takes a trip down stress lane. District personnel pass their stress to principals. Principals pass their stress to teachers. Teachers pass their stress and anxiety onto their students.

I am not a teacher that meets test scores or doesn’t. I am a living,  breathing organism that can do so much more than what my students test scores show you.

If you disagree with me show me where I am wrong. Because my exhaustion, my broken heart, and my empty pocket haven’t seen the proof to believe in the system.

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