State of Education

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Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, left, and Commissioner of the state Department of Education, Stefan Pryor, Right, arrive at the legislature's Education Committee public hearing on Malloy's education proposal. Melanie Stengel/Register (ctbulletin.com)

Okay, I’ll admit it.

I’m a teacher and my job is pointless.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this fact as educators have come under increasing criticism—especially here in Connecticut.

I concede that formal education is unnecessary.  Public school is a relatively new idea, and people got by without classrooms and textbooks for millennia.   Our most beloved American success stories are of self-made individuals who struck out against schools and other institutions to make their own way.

The truth is everyone is perfectly capable of learning what they need to survive.  Watch a child master a new task to see what I mean.  Learning is ingrained in human nature, and our curiosity allows us to figure out everything we need to know.

So why teach?  After all, Governor Malloy insists a teaching job should be “like every other job.”  He says teachers should welcome evaluation and competition as a way to improve our practice.  He says we don’t want to accept common business principles into our field soley so we can protect our tenure system.

I’ll counter with a question: Should teaching even be considered a job?

Let’s compare working in education to working in the ministry.  Across cultures and religions devout men and women heed the call to serve others through their faith.  Clergy are highly regarded for pursuing a vocation and for trying to make the world a better place.  They are protected and cared for by organized religion so they can do good without impediment.

However, as a job, becoming a priest or a rabbi or an imam is pointless.  People in general can find their own spiritual path just fine.  Spirituality is a natural part of life, and we are all equipped with an intuitive sense of divinity.  Left to their own devices, people will usually form a personal system of belief.

But isn’t it nice to have some guidance?

Maybe teaching should not be seen as just another job.  Like the clergy, men and women enter the field to enrich their communities.  Yet you don’t see the government attacking religion.  Despite some bad apples, the influence of religious people in this country is stronger than ever.

When a member of the clergy is criticized—rightly or wrongly—the faithful often see this as an attack on their beliefs.  Believers in education should feel just as indignant.  They should see attacks on teachers for what they are—attacks against the value of education.

Governor Malloy urges you to see teaching as just a job.  As such, many of his new policies will reward the very teachers he claims he wants to root out—those who pander to principles, who bully students into compliance, and who merely teach to the test.  In short, he will reward the teachers who only show up for a paycheck, not those truly devoted to their students.

If you consider yourself a member of the faithful, please support the educators and staff who chose a career in education instead of working just another job.  Believe it or not, there are scores of talented, hard-working people in our schools who want to make a difference.

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5 thoughts on “State of Education

  1. Hey there, I’m a writer for a state University’s men’s health education organization but I make this comment mostly with a personal objective. I agree that teachers that make the difference are those that don’t see their skills as a job, but rather a pathway that further deepens their appreciation for knowledge. The teachers In my past that I’ve taken the most from are the ones whose personal interest leaks into the classroom. I’m personally seeking a masters/doctorates in health behaviors and health education to teach college because I can never stop spewing irrelevant statistics. Yet at the same time, the American Education system is in desperate need of reformation. The disparities between north and south is pretty… Amusing. I read the same texts in a 10th grade honors class in FL as I did in 7th grade in an IL public school. Degrees and certificates are being handed out left and right. Peers in my RESTRICTED upper elective classes don’t know the basics of counting significant figures, Writing a formal paper, and live by the motto “C’s get degrees.” Obviously there is a flaw in the system if these individuals insufficient in first year, basic collegiate knowledge leak into a senior level class. Furthermore, these “C” degree graduates are the ones teaching our K-12… In this case the saying goes “For those who can’t, teach.”

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, PaigeC. I agree that there are some severe disparaties in the system not only between geographic areas, but within single school districts as well.

      Steps are being taken to help remedy this. Have you heard of the Common Core State Standards? Most of the country is in the process of revising the rigor of their curricula to help students perform at a much higher level as per these new standards. The differences between regions should start to smooth out over the next few years.

      As for C-level teachers, I agree that steps need to be taken to make sure students receive the highest level of instruction possible. However, wouldn’t it be better to support teachers–at all levels of skill–with professional development? In CT, the governor’s reform bill is highly punitive and offers little in the way of such support.

      Lastly, an instructor’s academic performance is not as relevant as you may think. It’s more important to care deeply about your students, to coach them toward making their own discoveries, and to mentor them as they struggle through adolescence–not to spout facts and figures in their faces. That’s why we have Google.

      Sent from my iPhone ___________________

      • No, I havn’t heard of the Common Core State Standards, but thanks for that. Hopefully it has some impact. And I do agree, I don’t think the teachers should be in a constant state of worrying because their bosses are always lurking over their shoulder. It does take a little more than knowledge to deal with a ruthless child and I’m sure thats why the bosses do hold administration positions to avoid such scenarios. I think education should be a combination of coaching/individual reflection but also requires strong structural discussions to establish critical thinking skills. The reason I want to be a university professor is not just to guide them on what learning techniques work best for them without supplying valuable information. Its to bring forth all the information I’ve been passionate about throughout my journey in an effort to share with the future of our country. After all, I wouldnt know the bases of Immunology or any subject had my professor not taught it to me, and his professor to him.

  2. Thanks for your reply. I was an adjunct professor before teaching high school, and I think you’ve highlighted the main difference between the two teaching scenarios: in college, it’s the teacher’s job to further their chosen discipline while presenting ideas that students need to rise to meet. In the lower grades, it’s the teacher’s job to help the students build skills and to support them as much as possible with much less emphasis on content. We count on our students to follow your path! Both the trailblazers and the support crew are needed on the journey that you’ve described. Everyone has the same goal, we just play different roles along the way.

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