Sunday, August 10, 2014

The 21st Century Teacher

If reformsters get their full laundry list of school system rewrites, the 21st Century teacher will be a very different animal from her 20th Century counterpart.

* She will be paid little. If she sticks around, she will either face stagnant wages or her wage increases will put her in danger of being fired.

* Her one real chance to make some extra money (and to keep her job) will be to get her students to produce high test scores. Most of her attention will be focused on that.

* She will not be a lifer. She'll be teaching for just a few years before she can move on to her "real" job. Even if she falls in love with the work, she will still likely have a short career. She may be forced out by financial issues (see above) or she will be fired before she can become either vested in the retirement system or too experienced and vocal to be tolerated.

* She will not have a teaching pension. There won't be much money in the pension fund anyway, but she'll never see it because she won't be teaching long enough.

* She will not have a teaching degree. She may not even have a college degree at all. She will have been trained briefly over the first summer before she started work. This will not matter because...

* She will not design her own instruction. She will be handed a program, some templates, some materials, maybe even a script.

* She will likely have a Master Teacher mentor.  Her MTM will be responsible for looking over her shoulder, answering her questions, "modeling" teaching for her, and generally backseat driving. Every building will have a handful of these actual teachers, many of whom are actually paid pretty well. However, the burnout rate will be pretty high, and by later in the 21st Century Master Teachers will come from the ranks of the new teacher cohorts, and therefor know nothing more about teaching than anyone else in the building.

* At the end of every year, she will say goodbye to many of her colleagues, and every fall she will welcome a new batch of newbies. She will never develop very useful collegial relationships because nobody will be around long enough to do so.

* In addition to low pay, she will also have no tenure or due process of any sort, nor will seniority exist as a layoff consideration. She can be let go at any time for any reason. 

* She will be easily fireable and easily replaceable. She will keep her mouth shut and her head down. When a principal directs her to perform educational malpractice, even if she recognizes that's what it is, she will do it anyway, because she needs the paycheck. The motto of the 21st century teacher is "Don't rock the boat ever." She will have no power to advocate for her students.

* With no job security, no autonomy, low pay, and a general lack of respect, teaching was only appealing to her because A) she's idealistic or B) she couldn't find better work.

* She will be a low-skill, low-cost, highly replaceable cog in a big machine. She will not be a bad person, but she will be adrift in an institution that offers her little real help to do a job for which she has little real training, and she will have a damned hard time doing the job well, as much as she may want to. Her one consolation will be that the job won't be hers for long.


  1. Peter, this is too depressing! It makes me want to throw in the towel and give up. Really, write stuff like the Bad CCSS ELA lesson. It shows the same thing but also shows what good teaching is and isn't so discouraging. I know, this is what we're headed towards, but we need to keep up a fighting spirit. : (

  2. It is depressing, but the test scores will be impressive. That's all that seems to matter.

  3. And if she teaches US History, she will find a paragraph in the chapter on the early 21st century that discusses the demise of the NEA-AFT. And she will spend a few seconds wondering how her job would be different if her mother's union did not sell out before she got to high school.

  4. Peter, it appears that the Sacramento Bee was mistaken. Or something. Anyway, here's the info from Ravitch:

  5. A lot of parallels here with what we're beginning to get in higher ed as full-time instructors are replaced by adjuncts.

  6. It's not reality yet. It's the education profiteers who are the problem. I still say what we have to do to refute them is to become cognitive science nerds.