Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jumping ship

I can't be the only educator thinking about it. All the teacher-bashing in the media has me considering leaving K-12 altogether...

I visited Siberia through a U.S. Department of State program in 2006. The day I arrived at my host school, I realized how entirely differently the teaching profession was perceived in that culture. Americans have none of the respect which punctuated every interaction with educators in the Russian schools. Teachers are honored, wield an enormous amount of influence, and are even offered inducements. Those teachers get a lot more than apples, let me tell you.  I had a very bright professor once who constantly kept coming back to the anti-intellectual aspect of American life. Maybe it's a consequence of that, that the oppressed populace is rife for revolt against some of the only working-class Americans left with any sort of employee benefits.

What scares me the most? I can't escape this anxiety on the news or online, but I hear precious little about it in my building. Only one of my assistant principals seems aware of all of this. She is one of the only professional educators in our school. A proud and active members of her professional organizations, she attends workshops voluntarily and at her own expense and reads journals, listservs, and both trade and practitioner-oriented books.

Many of the rest on our faculty are craftsmen. Some are very fine teachers, but on the whole, they don't want to devote too much time to their occupation. They watch American Idol instead of school board meetings in the evenings. I still don't think they work part-time or are overpaid, as some of the critics assert, but the conversations about union bashing masked as school reform masked as budgetary crises somehow haven't reached them, and I'm jealous.

Oh, odds are I'll be back at school next year, and for the foreseeable future after that. But this is the time of the year when many things seem possible. My administrators are getting older and will retire soon. My knee-jerk reaction is that I don't want to work for anyone else. I've been told by the state of Alabama I lack the requisite credentials to be certified as a school administrator, which minimizes my professional opportunities.

That jump is looking more attractive by the moment...


  1. I noticed the same respect among former Soviet teachers when I did summer professional development for teachers in Lithuania. It must be said, however, that the respect they received face-to-face was not matched in their $300/month paychecks. When I returned home from my first year and realized how differently I lived from how they did (I owned a home and a cottage, a car, could afford to fly there in summer, etc.), it was a huge reality check.

  2. Honestly, sometimes it is so hard for me to look out at a sea of "baby teachers" and not feel like I am lying, giving them hope that they can teach kids instead of drilling test taking strategies.

    I try to teach them to pay attention to policy and how teachers are treated, the public discourse of our profession, etc. But there are days when I would like to turn it off and isolate myself from the teacher bashing.

    The idea that you don't have the professional credentials puzzles me. Why?

  3. Wendy, I know how you feel. It's really hard to care so much, to remain invested and not be shell-shocked by what's going on around us.

  4. I discovered your blog after LMS superstar Buffy Hamilton (GA) tweeted this post. She commented, "No, you're not only one, Wendy." As an LMS student, one of the things that keeps me inspired is that we exist in a time when our community is global, not just relegated to school walls. Hang in there- thank you for working hard every day!

  5. I am so sorry to hear that, Wendy. That makes NO sense to me. You would be a great leader (and already are!) Just another moment where I shake my head at all the madness.

  6. Wendy, where would you jump to? I think we all need to have our resumes and interview suits ready. The way our district supports libraries I never thought they'd eliminate our assistants, but they did. I feel like anything could happen.

  7. I know exactly how you feel. My principal is retiring at the end of the year, so my school is facing a huge culture shift. The worst part is that the assistant principal has been groomed for the job. Technically, he's not guaranteed the position, but the reality is that he's already preparing to step into that role. At lunch today, I asked him how he felt about Senate Bill 72, and he had no idea what it was. I looked around the table to dozens of confused looks from fellow educators.

    I truly don't understand how teachers whose job it is to stress the importance education can't take the time to educate themselves. When I walk out of the door at 3:30, I don't stop being an educator. I read blogs, keep up with my RSS feed, and incessantly read education and tech related Twitter posts and journals just to stay current. It's disheartening to know that there are others out there who don't take their jobs as seriously as I.

    It also hurts to know that I pour my heart and soul into my job and my students, and society views me negatively anyway. I wish I knew how to fix those perceptions, but I think that those that I talked about above cast the rest of us in a bad light. Hopefully, with educators like you, we can fight the good fight and change how we are viewed by our students, society, and our fellow educators.

    Sorry to ramble, but I wanted you to know that you're not alone and you're not unappreciated. I truly appreciate what you do and admire your dedication to our craft. See you at AETC!