A really interesting report was just published that essentially equates me, a teacher, to a widget. By that they point out that public education views me as a replaceable cog, an indistinguishable influence on the overall productivity of public schooling which assumes that the work I do can be replicated by any other widget who meets the same criteria for being hired that I do.
I am immediately struck by a few things about this report:
—No duh! Everyone who works in our school system feels as though, if we were not to return next year, there would be the sentiment of, “Oh well, we lost a good one there but life goes on, bring on the new guy/gal, keep the wheels a turning please.” Under-appreciation for the work we do runs commensurate with the position. That’s just status quo. In a way it’s good because it means that no one person is any more important than the larger entity, its principles and public education’s societal objective. On the other hand, it breeds a system whereby all I really need to do is enough not to get fired. Once you are a widget, as long as you remain a functional widget, you get to keep on widgeting.
—This report states that 99% percent of teachers receive a satisfactory rating and that only 1% are rated unsatisfactory. Come on, now you have to admit, that’s a little high. I mean 1% — it can’t be that many! Lore is they have what’s called the Dance of the Lemons whereby folks who stink simply get transferred to other schools and not canned.
—Their claim that Professional Development is inadequate. I’d suggest that it’s virtually token if not out-n-out non-existent in many, many schools. (And this comes from a person who works hard to try and provide excellent PD when I go and visit schools.) Conference attendance is at a horrific low, resources to obtain high quality materials are being frittered away (see my recent commentary on textbooks) and hucksters abound in the world of “I’ll come to your school, fix all your problems plus your staff will laugh the whole day long”. A real commitment to PD can change a teacher’s classroom craft for the better but unless real support is provided from above (and in a world of budget cuts, PD always seems like a luxury to oh-so-many bean counters) ain’t no fresh news here.
But the thing is, I like this report. They are advocating for a more sensible system of schooling. I am not bashing them — I am saluting them, even if they are merely statistically backing up what so many people on the front lines know to be as self-evident.
We, the teachers, are being treated as widgets. But that’s not the greatest travesty. The greatest travesty is that we are treating our students as if they are widgets and until we are dedicated to halting this production line, we are gonna go right on widgeting along.
Cut music programs. Give them more math.
Eliminate art programs. Make them follow scripted curriculums.
Slash after school programs. Pretend the time between 3-6 pm isn’t The Witching Hour whereby most teens get into trouble with the law.
Fund more bubble testing. Slash special ed.
Cut school counseling positions. Fire more teachers. (Well, at least they are being fair here.)
Widget. Widget. Widget. Widget. Widget. Widget. Widget. Widget.