Sometimes I think there must be a special place in Hell for teachers like me who don’t tow the reform line or join in the outcry against them. I ride the fence. I go to work (not school), I do all I can within the parameters given to me by government and school policy to make sure that my students, whom I like on most days, get what they need to not only pass a test, but also to understand the world around them and how to function in it. Of course, I teach high school, and we’re all a little strange up here (ask any elementary educator).
Sometimes I apologize to my kids (my students – yes, on certain days, I like them well enough that they are my “kids”) because what I have to teach them is stupid and worthless, but there will be questions on the test. Since they need to pass the test, maybe it’s not worthless or stupid. Sometimes, we all do things simply to move to the next step.
I get angry when most so-called reformers try to sway me to their side. I don’t think education is failing. I think this is a line used so that business can find ways to make money off of education. I believe there is an honest-to-god conspiracy to get rid of public education (and I’m not generally a conspiracy theorist).
But I also find that on the other side of the argument, many educators go too far. “You can’t standardize any children!” shouts the Badass Teacher Association (which I follow, and generally enjoy). “I am so much more than just a teacher!” “Teachers are lifted up by the children we teach!” And on and on. The language is almost spiritual.
Teaching has become a sacred calling. Like the priesthood.
I don’t get it.
Teaching is a career. It’s a job. Can it be a calling like the priesthood? Sure. It can also be a calling like the way some are called to be engineers or marketing strategists or accountants. You know…the way I liked technical writing over biological anthropology (I was both majors and had to choose).
I worked in licence management and insurance before becoming a teacher, so I have some understanding of how the working world works and its expectations. In that world, sometimes you have to follow policies you don’t like, that you think are stupid, that don’t make sense, and that are redundant. Our kids and our students will have to do it when they graduate and move into the working world.
Teaching is no different. And I truly believe it is our job to show our students the reality of the world they will be walking into. I’m all for making sure our kids get what they need, and I think that the testing is too much. I think students should be prepared to tow the company line and speak out against it if they need to. I also think teachers are a little put upon right now, being blamed for the downfall of education (that again, doesn’t really exist).
But I would like to raise my hand from what I believe is the silent majority that lies between the two extremes – the reformers and the anti-reformers – to ask the question:
Can I, as a teacher, just like my job?