As battles over tenure across the country heat up, teachers will keep encountering parents who are in favor of ending job protections for teachers.
We teachers have our favorite pro-tenure arguments, the long list of bad reasons that teachers in non-tenure districts lose their jobs. But those arguments are most compelling to us. They speak to our professional concerns. What can we say to parents that means something to them? I have a suggestion.
Tell the parent to imagine one of the following situations:
You have to drop your child off early on a wintry morning, and the doors are locked. You'll have to leave them there, freezing and alone outdoors, but you can see the child's teacher just inside the door. Could she please let your child in just this once?
Your child is being bullied by one of the children of a powerful local figure, maybe even a school board member. You've thought about calling the principal, but you're afraid it won't help. Could your child's teacher please intervene to protect your child?
Your child has been through a tremendous personal loss-- maybe the death of a family member-- and she's not coping well. You know your child's teacher has suffered grief as well. Could she perhaps spend a few extra moments counseling your child through this personal crisis?
School officials are picking on your child, forcing your child to deal with educational demands that are just too tough and wrong. They've decided that your kid needs to be toughened up, so they are riding him hard. Could your child's teacher step in to take some of the heat off?
Your child's teacher is using materials that only make your child confused, frustrated and depressed about school. You know this material is bad for your child, and you also know that the teacher didn't support choosing it. Could the teacher please find a way to use the material less, or at least lessen its impact?
And then tell the parent to imagine that the only answer they can get for these or similar problems is this:
I'm sorry. I'd like to help your child. But I could lose my job.
Tell me again why getting rid of tenure and due process will make schools better.