What seems to be the norm these days is that I have gotten stressed over news both from print and television of people who are bashing teachers again. With so many negative forces in our society why are they ganging up on teachers? It is a puzzlement to me. We have bankers making tons of money off the poor, we have police kicking and stomping on handcuffed prisoners, we have companies forcing workers to work overtime and on weekends....we have a slew of possible candidates for being a negative force in our society and we pick on teachers. Maybe it is because we teachers don't fight back--we just want to teach our kids.
Recently the governor of Idaho has signed into law the anti-union bill against teachers coupled with the provision that Idaho can now fire (pink slip) any teacher regardless of how long they have worked at their job. If I understand the law Idaho can fire any teacher for any reason. Sad.
Then there is the governor of New Jersey who has repeatedly said that the Teacher Unions are the cause of all the troubles in the state. Wow! All of the troubles? Like Idaho, he now has been given the power (delegated to the school districts) to fire any teacher not doing the job.
Yes, I know a little about poor teachers. I was a member of the "Teacher Education and Professional Standards" (TEPS) committee of the Washington Education Association. Our task was to decide when a teacher in the State of Washington was fired if the WEA should supply legal assistance (lawyers). If I remember correctly it was about fifty-fifty. Half the time we would be in support of the teacher, the other half of the time we suggested that that person seek another profession. This was my teachers association taking on the challenge.
So let me give you a make-believe hypothetical (I know, redundant) scene. I'm a new principal of a middle school and I have a teacher who I do not like. She was teaching at the school before I was appointed principal and she is well liked by the faculty. She is fifty-five years old and has ten years to retire. She doesn't like the way I favor the new female teachers and has challenged me on some of the changes I have tried to make. She is also an English teacher who makes the students read. The kids respect her even though she is strict.
SO! I have need for a social studies teacher and appoint my nemesis to the position even though she objects. She has never taught Social Studies. And I have the power to do such a thing. After a year I find that the students in her classes did not make improvement so I fire her. Yes, this scene can happen and does....and will.
If we are to fire "bad" teachers we need to at least have some criteria as to what a "bad" teacher is. As an academic I have the following categories to suggest.
Negative Attitude teacher. One who belittles students, fellow teachers and the school in general. Does not get along with parents or thinks parents are doing a poor job of raising their children.
Overt Religious teacher in a secular setting. Tends to have students pray to solve problems, makes references to religious books. Also does not want to teach certain subjects believing that they are the churches domain. Note: this teacher could be exceptional in a church school setting.
Political teacher. Either right or left in political thinking. Changes information in textbooks to fit political beliefs. Encourages students to think in one direction.
Overly Fond teacher. Focuses on certain students and bonds with them. Sex may result between teacher and student.
Insensitive teacher. Someone who makes fun of students disabilities, looks, behavior, etc. A teacher who picks on certain students because of some characteristic such as race. Quite often this teacher does not have a compassionate personality.
Please note that I have not listed teachers whose students do not score well on tests. There are too many variables to measure in children's rate of learning from parents, neighborhood, nutrition and society norms.
With several million teachers in this country I suspect there are some who will fit the above categories but I think the numbers are not very large. I have already written about a teacher who was fired from one school district only to be chosen the 'teacher of the year' in another district. Why? I've always wondered about this. And in another school one teacher who was in my opinion obviously pedantic, boring, routine only to see his style was just what certain students needed.
Sadly the State of Washington has recently proposed a budget which will probably result in a three percent pay reduction for most teachers. And in some cases, there will be teachers furloughed from their jobs. I suspect a few school districts will say they have gotten rid of some 'poor' teachers. I wonder if they really will have done just that.
I think most teachers I have met or observed deserve a pat on the back and a pay raise. Thank you all for your services and your skills in teaching students. At least this is one profession that is trying to improve our society.