If You Don’t Like the Teachers …
Posted by whforums on September 14, 2008
The education news is flying fast and furious.
First, Barbara Carpenter resigned as head of the West Hartford Teacher’s Union. Rick Green has an interesting article about the situation. My concern with his take is that it implicitly maligns teachers as lazy and unwilling to compromise (it treats teachers as a monolith seemingly only because they bargain collectively), which is most certainly untrue. In fact, I’d suspect that most West Hartford teachers would like to be greater stakeholders in the direction of their school system, and I think, given the right compensation, many teachers would be willing to work a wide variety of schedules. But to imagine that teachers would work off hours without extra compensatoin compensation is to be guilty of the kind of thinking that too often seeps into lay conversations about education: “Teachers aren’t professionals — anybody could do it.”
Meanwhile, Talk of West Hartford has returned with a post that harshly challenges the quality of West Hartford schools at the curricular level, arguing that our shortcomings are rooted in “educational credentials” and that we should “be doing a full examination of what our kids are being taught and how.” While the post is careful to explictly challenge only administrators and those in charge of curriculum, as in Rick Green’s article, it implicitly maligns (especially through that word “how”) the teachers delivering the instruction. When the author asks the question “Are they being taught in the most efficient and effective manner?,” the implication is the same old same old — teachers don’t know what they’re doing, and “educational credentials” (like degrees in education and progressing certifications) don’t mean a thing.
I’m not saying all teachers are wonderful. Like any other job, I’m sure there are some employees who are burnt out, uninterested or focused only on their paycheck. But most of the teachers I know (and I’m surrounded by teachers in my life, so I’m perhaps a bit over-sensitive here) care more about their students than their schedules — and most don’t complain that their compensation, generally speaking, lags behind other professionals with comparable educational backgrounds. And this constant implicit disrespect doesn’t even touch on the day to day disrespect teachers receive from their students (and the parents of those students).
I fear that the forthcoming contract negotiatons could turn really ugly, and once again pit (at least) two very different West Hartfords against one another. In this case — as with the referendum we’re staring down — we may be so blinded by our own sense of our town’s identity that we can’t see that, despite our various perspectives, we share our common ground …