Thursday, July 23, 2009

Teaching: A Thankless Job?

As I was procrastinating/reading the news yesterday I couldn't help but notice some positive news regarding Metro Nashville's schools -- test scores improved just enough for the district to make "safe harbor" and avoid state takeover. But I found some of the comments written by readers more interesting.

Says one reader (gregoryjohn):
As a Metro teacher, I just received an email from Dr. Register (the superintendent) about the results. There is a line in the email that pretty much sums up the problems at most schools. It says for teachers to "support your principal." No where in the email does it mention that teachers need to be supported by the district or their principal. I can tell you that not once did my principal say thank you for the work I do. Instead, at our last meeting of the year, she told us that we need to step up and do more. I spent $3,000 of my own money, 50 or 60 hours a week working and planning and tutoring my students so that the kids in 2nd grade could go from reading 10 words a minute to reading 90 words a minute and I need to give more? How about the district support those of us doing the work instead of standing in our way?

And another (Lforcommunity) in response:
Even Connie Smith's (a district administrator) own words leave out the personnel who work with the students...."the switch to data-driven decisions in curricula, improved communication and a sense of urgency." What about the work of the teachers and students, or don't they count?

I heard similar reactions when test scores shot up one year in NYC -- the chancellor's office rejoiced that their new initiatives were working while teachers wondered if they shouldn't receive the credit. And I can't tell you how many teachers at my school wondered why they'd never been told "thank you" or "good job" by one of the administrators in the building.

I'm not going to argue that teachers never receive thanks (or always deserve thanks), and I'm not even sure that their job is any more thankless than the average person's, but it's pretty clear to me that quite a few teachers feel slighted. And I think that's important to take into account when we analyze and propose policies. It's awfully easy for somebody who's removed from the day-to-day stresses of teaching to criticize or blame teachers for the ills of society, but even if they're right I'm not sure how productive that sentiment is.

Regardless of whether you believe teachers to be overly defensive, they're not irrational and they are human beings -- and we in the policy world should treat them as such.

I'll step off my soapbox now and move on to other things -- I have 634 unread ed policy blog posts queued up in my google reader, so I'll have plenty of thoughts on those over the next week or so.

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