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Watch any recent education report and you will see a matter-of-fact statement about the cause of the problems in America’s schools—bad teachers. There was even a movie with the same name (it was funny). Furthering this notion of "bad teachers" are people like Michelle Rhee, and Bill Gates and you will think that every problem in America’s schools would be solved if we just got rid of all these horrible teachers filling America’s classrooms.
Don't Believe the Hype
Don’t believe the hype, folks. The belief that "bad teachers" are ruining the public education system could not be further from the truth. Are there bad teachers? Sure! Just like there are bad doctors, lawyers, bus drivers, nurses, sales reps at Old Navy (hopefully you get my point). However, to blame teachers is a gross oversimplification of the problems that exist in schools. And when you jump on the ‘Blame Bad Teachers’ Bandwagon, you are actually making schools WORSE for kids. Let me show you how.
- Teachers are only one part of the American education system. While teachers are the biggest factor that schools can control, but there are so many other influences (namely environment and family factors) that significantly affect the outcomes schools are able to produce. Teaching is one of the most valuable yet unappreciated professions in America. It always amuses me when I hear the ‘bad teachers’ comments because people act like there are so many people beating down the door to become teachers. Think about all the college students majoring in math and science majors you know. Now think about how many are trying to become teachers? There are not many- every year schools (especially in inner cities) are struggling to find teachers qualified to teach math and science. Quite frankly there is a multitude of other professions where these people can make more money and enjoy better working conditions. So, when you talk about teachers (especially for those subjects), you basically end up with whoever really wants to do it.
- Teachers can only control those factors that exist in their classrooms. If a teacher does not know their content, cannot control their classroom or is unable to connect with children, by all means, blame that teacher. However, if that teacher’s class scores low on a standardized test, but also has low reading levels, the teacher can’t control that. I’ve had students that read on a 1st-8th grade reading level in my 11-12th grade history classroom. Is it fair to blame me, or even to evaluate me, on factors that I cannot control?
- When teachers are blamed, they get frustrated. When teachers get frustrated, morale goes down. When morale goes down, this can manifest itself in a multitude of ways. Teachers may have increased stress levels, which lead to medical issues. When teachers have medical issues, they miss school. When teachers miss school, students are stuck with substitute teachers. When students end up with substitute teachers, they learn less. Don’t blame teachers for things they can’t control.
- Another way students lose when teachers are blamed is that teachers become burned out and leave the schools. Sometimes they leave for another school. However, it is often that teachers leave the profession altogether, frustrated at horrible teaching conditions and choosing instead to take chances in a non-education field. Students need consistency. Consistency contributes to school culture. It is frustrating for students to have to get to know a multitude of new teachers every year. Two of my former coworkers quit teaching in the middle of the school year. In both cases, the students had substitute teachers for a period of at least one month. How much do you think the students learned with those substitute teachers? I could talk about the people I know that have quit teaching altogether. I could also talk about those that have mentally quit but stay in the classroom because they need the money. Instead, I will spare you the details. The most important thing to know is that when teachers are not supported, students are the ultimate losers.
What's Next for Teachers?
I’m not asking you to keep teachers that do not belong in the classroom. I would argue that most of those ‘bad teachers’ don’t really want to be bad. If schools focused more on supporting those bad teachers and helping them improve kids' lives. I am advocating that states and school systems focus more on recruiting outstanding teachers and supporting those who truly want to improve, which in hand will benefit kids.The ultimate goal of schools is to help students become productive citizens in society. Click To Tweet
The ultimate goal of schools is to help students become productive citizens in society. By that reasoning, there should be multiple steps taken to support teachers, since they have the most direct contact with students of anyone else in a school. When teachers feel supported, students benefit. When students benefit from schools; society benefits as a whole. Isn’t that what we all want anyway?