Saturday, March 05, 2011

I am a teacher

I am a teacher. And as a teacher, Senate Bill 5 has brought something to my attention that both surprises me and saddens me. It’s probably not what you might assume. Yes, the potential to lose up to $20,000 of my salary is enough to make me sad. What’s more, losing benefits is never good to hear. Also, merit-based pay that would only work if all students were equal and all tests were fair, is definitely frightening to me.

But what surprises me and saddens me the most about Senate Bill 5 is the response against teachers it has revealed. Every article or debate discussing either side of this issue soon becomes flooded with vitriolic comments that paint teachers as lazy elitists who seem to only care about their tenure and summer vacations. When did this happen?

In the twenty-eight years since I became a teacher, I cannot think of one teacher who went into the field to make money. We all knew that was not an incentive. Still, we were drawn to a career that placed us directly in the lives of our students --the future of our nation. There used to be an honor, an understood respect in being able to say, “I am a teacher”.

True, the state of education is in a state of chaos. You don’t have to point that out to any teacher. We’re at the front lines of this battle. We know. But, assuming this dire state is because teachers aren’t doing their jobs, is like assuming the ongoing war in Iraq is due to the soldiers overseas not doing their jobs. No one would dare put that blame on our brave soldiers’ shoulders. We are quick to point out there are many other factors out of their control. Instead of blame, we look for ways to support them in their battle. Why the opposite for teachers who battle to educate our future?

Are there bad teachers out there? Certainly. Is that what causes such a negative reaction when this topic comes up? Maybe. Perhaps some people simply remember the one teacher they had who never should have become a teacher at all, and forget all the wonderful teachers who helped shape them into who they are today. Believe me, though, the bad teachers are the exception. Instead, the field of education is saturated with wonderful, caring teachers who give way beyond their 180 days of contracted service to ensure that each child has a chance to succeed.

If Senate Bill 5 passes, stripping wonderful teachers of pay and benefits, and strapping their merit to ridiculous standardized tests approved by those who have never been in a classroom, many great teachers will be forced to leave the profession they love. And many great teachers-to-be will be forced to choose other fields. In the meantime, we teachers will continue to do our jobs amidst growing frustration, disrespect, and uncertainty.

Because we are proud of who we are. We are teachers.