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Do you remember the phrase, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”? I was thinking about this cynical comment, attributed to H.L. Mencken, and wondered if the teachers who chose to be teachers in the 20th century were aware of his statement and if their decision to become teachers was affected by it.
Nowadays, I wonder if teachers appreciate being in the profession. Was there a time when they were genuinely proud to be teachers? Did the requirements of the profession drive them away? Did the types of students they had to try to manage make teaching too difficult? In my exploration, I found that teachers joined the profession for a wide assortment of reasons, and they also left for just as many. I also thought about recent posts I’ve written about the teachers’ unions that were making outrageous demands for their members, and that the teachers didn’t necessarily agree with what they were demanding, but didn’t know what to do about it. What I know at this point, however, is that teachers were highly regarded at one time, and their reputation as a profession has taken a beating. So I wanted to know why at least some of them signed up, and why others decided to leave.
I remember the time when parents would almost always support a teacher over the complaints of their children, especially if it was obvious that the children were probably misrepresenting what the teacher had done or said. The parents insisted that the teacher had the last word and that the children should straighten up. Although it’s unclear whether a parent should have always sided with a teacher, their reaction to a child’s protest demonstrated that the teacher was held in fairly high esteem.
These days, rightly or wrongly, parents are more likely to defend the child and criticize the teacher, sometimes before they even have the whole story. Since I believe that many children today are raised with little respect for adults, with little discipline or boundaries, it’s entirely possible that teachers have had to tolerate overindulgent parents defending their kids. And that the kids, especially in the higher grades, were difficult to manage as well. It doesn’t take a lot of misbehaving children to disrupt a class or to damage the authority of a teacher. So much for respecting one’s elders.
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So how have teachers found their way through this muddle of mixed messages, disruptive students, and inconsistent support from parents? Based on the people who were interviewed for one survey, respondents said repeatedly that they were passionate about teaching children. That they had been taught by dedicated teachers themselves and wanted to carry out that kind of commitment in their own lives. That they could make a difference in the lives of children through their teaching. Their own love of learning motivated them to pass on that love to the children they taught.
What situations made their roles as teachers difficult? The expectations of the school administrators put a strain on many teachers. One person described a teacher friend’s experience in this way, and I suspect the friend’s not alone:
This year she has had multiple new programs to learn: a new grade book program, a new online lesson planning program, and a new reading series. She admits her confidence in her technical abilities is lacking but she tries. She attends every mandatory and voluntary information session offered. She spends weekends reading and watching the how-to videos. She asks questions of co-workers and tries to get as comfortable as she can with these new processes. She is learning it all, but it takes time and patience…and more time. This time comes from her personal life.
These requirements do not include writing lesson plans or grading papers.
There are also administrations who are continually requiring student testing, which has its own issues, such as teaching to the test by some teachers, or limiting creativity in the classroom:
The teacher I met last week could no longer tolerate the endless testing and measuring; grades on report cards had been replaced with dozens upon dozens of ‘academic outcomes’ she was required to evaluate and document. She could no longer tolerate the shelving of her previous professional training and classroom know-how, not to mention common sense honed by her life experience (that’s right, she over 40) with a rigid lesson plan passed down from on high that required every teacher at the same grade level be on the same page of the same book on the same day or certain sanctions would be applied. Spontaneity and curiosity were all but outlawed. Besides, there wasn’t time, and teachers would get in trouble if caught using an unauthorized book. She knew this wasn’t good for the kids, and in good conscience she couldn’t continue. She quit.
All of these difficulties do not apply to all teachers, administrators, schools, and students. But I suspect enough people are affected that when we try to understand how teaching has gone so far off the rails under the control of the unions, we might come to a few conclusions, particularly when it comes to the unions’ insistence that Critical Race Theory is included in the curriculum.
I wonder if it’s not possible that many people who have joined unions today are some of the most disempowered people in the teaching profession. They feel they have been misunderstood, discounted, and overworked. They feel abused by administrators, parents, and children. And they are prepared to do anything they can to become empowered. Their efforts go far beyond wages and benefits: they intend to punish everyone who has made their lives difficult. I don’t think they are so much invested in CRT, as they are determined to get their power back by choosing the most controversial issues they can. They began their efforts long ago at the university level with the undermining of American history; much of that history is now being taught through lies and propaganda. With transgenderism and all its contentious requirements, they have made substantial inroads, destroying the lives of children, in spite of the pushback from parents and the community.
We’ve been talking about racism in this country for years, but it is now widely promoted as CRT with all its accouterments such as systemic racism and white supremacy. And we probably won’t have to wait long to see their next steps for attacking and undermining the education system as a whole.
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Although teachers are afraid to fight the union system, parents can’t do this alone. Somehow teachers, just like parents, must prepare themselves to resolutely challenge the union leaders, and parents must support them in any way they can. Administrators must set limits for the unions, stop letting them make these kinds of decisions, and listen to the parents. Legislators, too, must get involved, in spite of their indebtedness to the unions.
Everyone must join forces to fight back.
[Photo by Monica Sedra @unsplash.com]Published in