Teacher Reform from a 1st Year Perspective

Right now the education system feels like a mess that is bigger than any of us could handle.  My father asked me what are the 3 things needed to change in order for the education system in America to improve (my father always thinks in 3’s).  I had a hard time limiting myself to only picking three things that need to change.  I believe there are so many intricacies to a public educational system which employs both elements of federal and local money allowing for another confusing issues to be thrown in the mix.

The number 1 fix I would make to become effective immediately?  Get rid of teacher tenure.

There, I said it.

Get rid of tenure.  The whole issue of tenure irritates me to a degree that I cannot even name.

Teachers repeatedly demand for the pay and respect of those in the private sector.  Well, if we want that sort of reward, then I feel like we have to earn it.  How fair is it that teachers work for 3 years and then has job security for the rest of their careers?  In what other profession does that happen??

Joel could get a call any day informing him he would no longer have a job. He hasn’t gotten that call and I assume he won’t.  Why?  Because he works his ass off.  He EARNS his pay.  Amazing concept.

I’m not by any means suggesting that teachers don’t all earn their pay; I sure believe I earn every penny.  But I have grave issues with the fact that there are teachers at my school who don’t do a small percentage of what all I do and yet they have a job next year – guaranteed.

There are teachers at my school who scream at the students, telling them to read the chapter and answer the questions – but don’t ask her any questions.  There are teachers (and not gym teachers) who have such little respect for their job that they think it’s appropriate to wear ill-fitting sweatpants and t-shirts.  Some teachers feel that it’s perfectly acceptable to show videos every other day – videos that don’t have a flippin’ thing to do with school/education.  There are teachers who hang on in the halls after the bell rings and chats with co-workers, ignoring the restless students in their classrooms.  There are teachers who are lazy and refuse to modify their curriculum to reflect the change in technology.

All of those teachers have tenure.

Meanwhile, there are the rest of us, who work hard every day because we know that we could get cut at the end of May. Now that the budget issues are becoming rampant, teacher jobs are scarce.  We dress up every day, think of and develop new innovative activities for our curriculum, and find ways for students to be actively involved in their education.  And yet, WE are on the chopping block.

I couldn’t sleep last night due to my brain constantly running over all the injustices in the system.  You say there are in justices everywhere?  You’re right, but I bet you have better job security as a new employee than I’ll have for the next 3 years.  I understand why teachers are on a lower pay scale.  How can you justify paying someone an inflated salary when you can NEVER fire them??  (Yes, you could fire them but it takes YEARS and it is terribly difficult to get around the union laws to fire a tenured teacher).

Please don’t think that I am naive enough to believe every tenured teacher is a slacker and every new teacher is incredible.

It’s no secret – jobs will be cut.  We will more than likely be losing a teaching unit in every department.  I am the only untenured teacher in my department and yet I (the one with the 90% pass rate for the graduation exam – not that I totally agree with test scores but it sure makes me look good, the one who has triple the enrollment for my AP class next year) have the grave possibility of losing my job.

All because I am new.

I understand why students are discouraged to be teachers.  How could they ever succeed in their profession if they can’t hold a job for longer than a year?

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4 thoughts on “Teacher Reform from a 1st Year Perspective

  1. Excellent points made – it made me re-think the four years I taught without tenure. Here’s the thing: when you don’t have it, you want it gone. When you have it, you understand the value of it.

    The idea that teachers are unfireable with tenure is a misconception. While teachers are being held accountable for what you listed, where does the principal fit in here? After all, there is a dress code; after all, there are standards. It seems that teachers who find themselves pulling the stunts you are describing do so because no one tells them they can’t. I feel as if administrators hide behind “tenure” to keep from doing their job.

    No teacher’s job is secure – ever. But let me tell you what tenure does offer teachers: a voice. As a non-tenured teacher I was asked to change a grade; I was asked to allow a student to make up a semester’s worth of zeroes so he could be eligible to play baseball; I was harassed by dance team parents; I was harassed by students. The truth is, when these groups know you are not tenured, they take advantage. Tenure shows an investment: yours within the system and the system within you.

    Are there teachers out there who abuse it? Sure. Why aren’t they reprimanded? Why is the dress code not enforced? Why are the academic standards of the county not enforced? That falls on the shoulders of those running the school as much as it does on the shoulders of the offenders.

    Getting rid of tenure is not the solution. What that does is open a door to allow parents to run our classrooms. Don’t think that’s true? Speak to teachers who have been harassed by parents over grades, over a lesson they disagreed with, etc. That is what it is meant to do – allow teachers to have a voice that is snuffed those first few years.

    And I am an eleven-year veteran in the classroom, and I am bitter. I am bitter that I work harder, that I have more students, and that my work load is generally a lot larger than my co-workers for the same pay…across the county. I don’t think it is fair that I am paid the same amount to work with triple the number of students, with double the number of duties, etc. as those who work within smaller schools, but it is what it is. It’s the system I invested my career in, a system that has also invested in me.

    Is it fair that the new teachers are the ones on the chopping block? Of course not, but that is the way of this profession…across the country. It’s not fair that you show results – BTW, I don’t believe in evaluating teachers based on test scores; those tests deprofessionalize what we do – and could lose your job? But what is the solution? Take away tenure so principals/school systems can step up and let go of excellent teachers because they have differing educational philosophies?

    The truth is the only ones who lose in this battle are students – their future is used to gain political points, to jab at one another, to put down one another, instead of rising above it all and doing what brings out our passion: teaching.

    All we can do is hold on tight and hope that it all turns out right. Because the truth right now is that the war on education is killing all of us – tenured or not. We are in this together. WE must stand together (yes, even with the one wearing the sweat pants) and fight together for the greater good – our profession, our passion, our students.

    • Crys, you are exactly correct. I want to be in the tenure club and it makes me so angry that I probably will never be in it! It frustrates me because though we live in AL now, it’s not our home and we have no family here. At some point, we intend on moving closer to family (although this entirely depends on Joel’s job since he is our breadwinner) and moving into a state like AL makes it entirely difficult to get a job over someone with tenure.

      One of the problems at our school is the rotation of administration. You’re right – it makes it hard to keep teacheres in line (which some of them desperately need). But also, I’ve witnessed the conversations about this subject and watched teachers become defiant about what they wear. With tenure, it makes it much more difficult to fire someone. I bet that a lot of principals don’t even go through with it because it is SUCH a hastle.

      You know me and know that I do not give a flip about test results. BUT, to an outisder to our profession, it is hard for them to understand progress and what happens in my classroom without having statistics to back it up. And as a new teacher, it sure makes me look good to say that I can make the kids pass tests. It definitely doesn’t hurt my cause and at least proves to people at Central Office that I am able to teach the course of study according to the test results.

      I agree and wish that we COULD all stand together. Instead, I feel like I am in a battle – new teachers vs. old. Instead of being welcomed into this profession, like I was by many peers my age, I have had many people try to throw me under the bus. It amazes me that as teachers we don’t welcome those with new ideas or passion and instead we kick them to the curb and tell them how they will fail. As teachers, shouldn’t we be the last people on earth to treat others this way? I find it ironic that we encourage students to do whatever they want, but we discourage new teachers. I feel that the profession is discouraging altogether. I didn’t come into teaching to do anything but share my love of my subject to my students. It’s going to be hard for me to do that as I lose my job. It makes me so upset because I am a good teacher – I bust my butt all the time and yet, I’m going to lose my job. I feel that any new teacher like me feels upset and bitter about a system that does not benefit us or encourage us to become better professionals for the long run.

  2. Thank you Chrys, for saving me the trouble of a response. One more thing…..thank you Oprah for insighting a national discussion that focuses on placing the downfall of education on teachers and does not acknowledge the shifting values of American society over the years.

    • Yes, let’s not look at the “typical” family and how that is evolving. Instead, let’s require teachers to educate AND raise up young people into quality adults. Sometimes there’s only so much you can do in an hour.

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