Friday, September 13, 2013

The Beatings Will Continue

One underlying assumption of school reform has now been with us so long that it's no longer even questioned.

NCLB, RttT and whatever-it-is-we're-getting-now all assume that better teaching must be beaten out of teachers. We are all apparently sitting around, possessed of the full knowledge of how to perfectly educate America's students, but because we are too lazy or belligerent or just under-motivated, we keep that knowledge to ourselves.

Only by being threatened can we be truly motivated. Only with the stick of bad ratings and budget cuts and, now, firing, will we finally relent and say, "Well, okay, I guess I'll go ahead and do my job."

It is one of the most fundamentally insulting features of school "reform," People who are education dilettantes, school tourists, and powerful amateurs want to treat us-- you know, the teachers who have devoted their whole lives to education, who have sacrificed our time, our money, and any prospects of becoming Really Wealthy like the other people we went to college with-- as if we aren't really committed to schools. We spend our lives here, and they are just passing through, but somehow WE are the people who don't really have skin in the game.

The irony is that every committed teacher I know, every educator worth his/her salt, can give you a list of personal weaknesses. I can tell you exactly where I need to, and strive to, improve in my work. Because we all know that perfection in teaching is to be chased, but never achieved. Our reaction to criticism has NEVER been, "How dare you! My job performance is perfect. My awesomeness as a teacher cannot be questioned!"

We know our weaknesses, and we work on them far harder than any reformer ever thought of. And when we get one aspect of our practice under control, we move on to the next one. And it takes a hell of a lot longer than two years plus five weeks.

The continued attempts to motivate us by threats and insults are a distraction. They are a problem not just because they are insulting but because they are one more thing we have to deal with that takes time and attention away from the work we're trying to do. They are like paging a doctor in surgery and saying, "Look, you need to finish that operation up in the next five minutes because we need you in the office for your performance review."

I am already giving school everything I have to give. Threatening me will not get more out of me. Additional beatings will not improve my morale.

1 comment:

  1. Dang man, you are totally right about all of this. I'm only 11 years in and just cannot fathom how bad it has gotten so quickly. I am vested in the NYTRS but seriously considering spending next summer exploring career alternatives. We work too hard to have to put up with all this garbage. All I can think is that it's going to come down to something like what Mexico is going through now.