Quick! Think of a movie about an inspirational teacher. Got it? Now, how many of them are real. Got it. Now, how many of them actually adhere to what’s expected of them. Hmmmm, not many, right?
What I find interesting about the inspirational teacher narrative is that, most of the times, these teachers are rebels in their own professions. They aren’t actually teaching the curriculum (School of Rock), or making sure the students are ready for the test (Dead Poet’s Society). Nope, they are INSPIRING because they are cutting through the bullsh*t to teach “what the kids really need to learn.” Just for kicks, how many inspirational teachers are male? Now what percent of teaching do males encompass? I’m just asking…
As for our inspiring teachers… You want to pay me based on “accountability” gained from my test scores, but you want me to inspire students by bucking the “cruel” educational system, giving the students a voice, and not playing nice in the sandbox. In the immortal words of Hopper, “Do I look stupid…to you?”
This rings every WTF bell in my body.
Fact is, many of these teachers taught pre-NCLB and/or standards days. Another consideration is how many of them taught very few years (less than 5) before quitting to go to something else. If you’re looking at “Dangerous Minds” or “Freedom Writers”, you are seriously looking at women who did not go the mile in those HARD schools. While they are inspiring because they made it 2-5 years in teaching, only to write a book about their “struggle” to “reach” the kids, there are 100s of teachers who are STILL in those classrooms daily working on the same damned thing. As for teachers like Jaime Escalante (sp), he admits it took YEARS to get his program going, often with day to day politics getting in the way. He finally had to give up and get out of it. Where is his movie about how his life was sucked from him?
I HATE the narrative of the inspirational teacher. I hate it with a passion because it is thrown into my face, daily, that I should be working to do MORE with less. “GOOD” teachers give up their after school planning time to help kids move forward. “GOOD” teachers sacrifice themselves and their families for the community. “GOOD” teachers don’t need additional pay or assistance because that’s not what they’re about. Need I point out that often “GOOD” teachers are burned out, divorced, have nothing outside of work, and will never retire because they have given their whole lives to teaching.
I visited a school in Southern California that was making some huge gains in test scores. It had an amazing principal (gay man, who was a teacher from back in the day and transplanted from the Midwest). The teachers really wanted the students to move forward. They did everything in their power to make sure the students would bridge the educational gaps they had. The principal supported their actions and pushed the parents to take a larger role in their children’s education. He also admitted that his school was the divorce school. The teachers were giving so much of themselves they had nothing left for their spouses.
That’s right, sacrifice it all. And for what? Oh, and society has the nerve to question the teachers’ unions having the audacity to demand living wages and pensions… Maybe I’m just in a mood, but f*ck you.