WARNING: this rant is directed to “education” as a national institution. It may contain comments some may consider “inflammatory.” (Note-it is in no way intended to reflect upon my current situation. I love my school, my colleagues, and so far this year, my students.)
I’ve heard a lot about education reform in my fifteen years as a teacher. I know of no other profession that is constantly undergoing some sort of reform or remodel. Can you imagine if lawyers had to change the way they tried a case every other year? Or if a judge could make a ruling without telling the lawyers what the criteria for the ruling was before the trial began? That’s what education feels like to me today. If any other profession was managed the way the education system is run…well, no other profession would stand for that, now would they. And yet, teachers do.
Lately I’ve been thinking, what if the answer isn’t education reform, but rather educator revolution? What would education look like if educators instead of politicians made policy decisions? What if no one could be a “district level” administrator unless they were still at least part time in the classroom? (I give school level administrators a pass because they work their asses off, at least at my school.) What if it was just as hard to get into a university education program as it is to get into med school or law school? What if the media, and as a result the population at large, treated teachers with respect, rather than blame?
My mind freezes up trying to consider the possibilities. I love speculative fiction as much as the next guy, but there are limits to believability. It is a strange time to be in education. Teachers are leaving the profession in droves, so that there are literally not enough warm bodies to put in classrooms. Teacher education programs are facing all time enrollment lows. Those of us still fighting the good fight are demoralized on an almost daily basis. Some teachers can’t even remember the last time they received a noticeable pay increase, yet every year are asked to do more and more.
It’s easy to say “what if” when there are no real answers. The sad truth is that education will not get better simply because those of us in the trenches have no recourse to change the system, and no one that I know of on a national or state level is seriously fighting for teachers. So my question is, one I’d really like an answer to, is how can teachers take education out of the hands of the government? Give us the tax dollars directly, and stay out of it. If doctors and lawyers can manage their own professions, why can’t teachers?
I will be the first to concede that being a teacher isn’t about making a Bill Gates sized fortune, and yes, having the summer “off” is a nice perk. But the system is collapsing in on itself. I wouldn’t be surprised if in ten years you will be hard pressed to find a teacher with more than ten years experience. We will all reach a breaking point where it’s no longer worth it to stay in the classroom. When working at the corner gas station as a manager will be a more fulfilling (and more lucrative) occupation.
It’s time to end all this talk of education reform. Let us instead talk of educator revolution. Have frank discussions with each other, with policy makers, and with parents about making real, lasting change. Reduce the amount of bureaucracy. Actually improve things so that kids do better, learn more, and leave school as productive members of society.
It has taken me fifteen years to finally fall in love with being a classroom teacher. Now that I’m at a point in my career where I can enjoy it, I hate the thought of giving it up. Just the same, I’m told it never hurts to have an updated résumé.