August 9, 2012

Can Teaching Excellence Become The Norm Again?


I have friends who are teachers in the K-12 levels. I think we all do. One of my best friends when I was a tween/teen is a teacher (getting her Ph.D. now!) and administrator. I admire teachers a great deal for many reasons. One of which is that they do something I could never do. Sure, I homeschooled BabyGirl. And, still do for some things. But as I spent time in the classroom last year helping BabyGirl’s teacher, there was never a sense of “I could do this!”.

We all had at least one great teacher that we can probably still recall quite a few details about. But sadly, we don’t have a list of men and women, with whom we spent hours each day, who made a difference. I graduated from high school 25 years ago. And, sadly, not much has changed in how teachers are treated. I think The 1980s was a big turning point in the teaching profession.

As the economy boomed, schools began to burst at the seams. Classes got bigger. Arts programs got cut. Teachers were expected to teach larger and larger classes. All while teachers kept getting the same pay.

And something else seemed to happen. Kids were no longer the mindful pupils of yesteryear. There were gangs, and violence. More high schoolers were driving to school. Parents were both working and kids of all ages were often home without supervision. Society changed. People changed. Teachers changed.

Teaching was more work. In some schools, a lot more work. And the societal expectations of how kids were supposed to perform was increasing. The teachers who wanted to make a difference kept at it. Those teachers who believed that kids, no matter their background, could succeed, pushed.

But many teachers just gave up. And with that, our expectations and the reality of the educational system began to diverge in many areas. Teaching is a business, but it’s not run like one. Employee morale is often never considered. For some teachers, the only thing getting them to the school each day are their students. But when the administration is pushing an agenda that teachers don’t buy in to, there are likely going to be problem. And when your co-workers are no more than babysitting a room full of children, it’s easy to get frustrated at not getting a raise or promotion.

Most jobs give promotions and raises for good work. Good work on the individual and corporate level. Teachers? Sure there are evaluation criteria, but for the most part the incentives to do a good job don’t come from the employer. From what I’ve heard from my friends who teach in K-12, the incentive to be a great teacher comes from a personal drive to be the best as well as from the kids (and parents) who show appreciation.

I recently read a book by Eva Moskowitz, the founder of the Success Academies charter school that began in Harlem. In Mission Possible, Ms. Moskowitz talks about why she started the school – because she believed kids deserved better – and how she and her staff have brought back the passion for learning. Not only is learning important for the kids, but one of the major touch points I got from the book was that if the teachers loved their job there’s no limit to the heights the kids could strive for.

I am where I am partly because I’m smart. But a big part of why I’m smart is also because I had teacher who believed I was smart. Why can’t that be the norm for every child today? Why can’t teaching excellence be rewarded from the top down. The status quo can change, and kids and parents and teachers and our society deserve better than what we have now.

If you are interested in reading Mission Possible by Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia, let me know in the comments and I’ll choose one of you to receive a copy of the book.

If you’re on Twitter, you can also follow Eva Moskowitz for information about education excellence. If Facebook is your choice, you can connect with Eva Moskowitz on Facebook to help you encourage success with your kids’ teachers.

Do you think your kid’s school is doing it right? Are their teachers treated like valued employees?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I was provided compensation for my time and provided a complimentary book. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Shelia Hicks August 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Hi Sara,
I am an educator and would love a copy of this book. If I win, I will read it and pass it on to another educator.
Thank you!
Shelia Hicks

Skirnir Hamilton August 11, 2012 at 11:36 am

This view you have on education/teaching, doesn’t it extend to almost all employers though? I mean, you talk about the outside business community like they value employees, well maybe in an economy where employees can leave, but that isn’t what we have today. Today a company can treat you how they want and rest assured that you aren’t going anywhere and I have never seen a company where raises was really based solely on job performance. Many companies try, but job performance is so subjective, that I am not sure how they even could. Sorry, just seems like a rosy view of how to fix the education industry.

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