I spent the day today working with professional educators. This group of experienced teachers gathered to learn more about mentoring those just entering our profession. Technically, we’re there to participate in the California teacher-credentialing program, which requires beginning teachers to collaborate with experienced support providers. on my kitchen But while I was sitting there, learning about learning-focused conversations, and how to consult, collaborate and coach, I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would enter this profession – the same one I’ve dedicated the last 22 years towards.
A colleague I was working with echoed my feelings. She told me she’s embarrassed to say she’s a teacher now, and refrains from offering her profession unless asked. Shocked, I realized that being a teacher doesn’t embarrass me – it frustrates me.
When did teachers become the villains?
After spending three unpaid hours in my classroom after the workshop, I went home and noticed Ben Boychuk’s article “Movie the teachers union doesn’t want you to see” on my kitchen table. Now, I’m not a huge go-union-type; I believe that teachers should be rewarded for their work, and that there are some teachers who are much more effective than others are. I don’t believe that ineffective teachers should be guaranteed a job, regardless of seniority. I believe that there is a reason for a union, but don’t feel that I can only protect my job by having union protection. I know the education system is in need of reform. However, Boychuk’s article about the idea of a parent trigger law, as portrayed in the movie “Won’t Back Down”, as somehow being a good idea really dismayed me.
Parent trigger laws make no sense. To allow dismayed parents to take over a school is not the solution. I’m tired of people thinking they know how to do my job. What other professions have people immediately begin to spout off how they could do the job better? Would someone tell a doctor how to operate? A vet how to treat an animal? A lawyer how to try a case? A firefighter how to attack a fire? Yet more often than not, when I tell someone I’m a teacher they respond with their own version of how schools are effective or ineffective, and how they would change education.
I’ve never been anything but a teacher. I’ve dedicated decades of time and energy to serving every student, every family that walks through my door – thousands of them. I don’t get to choose my students, and they don’t choose me. I guess some might say it’s chance that we are thrown together, but I take it seriously. I see teachers pour countless hours into improving their practice and creating new ways to engage and educate students. I see teachers reaching out to help their colleagues, no matter their level of experience. These teachers are the heroes – not the villains – of our communities.
Parent trigger laws make teachers look like the “”bad guys”. They empower parents to pass the blame onto someone else instead of working together to look at areas for improvement, both in their parenting and the school system. Parent trigger laws might seem like an easy fix, but in reality, they won’t fix the education system. Our challenges are much deeper than just removing teachers. Education problems are not issues of teachers unions against families – in fact, I think the solution has everything to do with uniting teachers and families.
Jennifer Wolfe is a mom to a tween and a teen, as well as a middle school teacher in California. She has degrees in elementary and secondary education and has taught for 21 years.