Shawn Maxam shares a brief conversation about the state of American education.
The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.-Sydney J. Harris
The friend who I am sharing this conversation about is a damn good educator. He has taught for approximately ten years and enjoys the profession. He was educated at an elite institution and has taught both in NYC and Los Angeles. These are arguably two of the most troubled school districts in the nation. What I learned from my conversation with my friend is that we can’t improve the urban education system if we can’t keep good teachers in the system. Below is an excerpt from a very casual discussion.
friend: …Pick up my national teaching credential (and have the district pay for it) and prepare to look elsewhere. I probably will want to find a place where I can teach community college and possibly be near a college where I can go for a Ph.d
me: do your Ph.d full time of course? in English?
friend: Maybe. Or education, one of the few things I think I’m really good at.
me: so UCLA, USC, Cal etc?
friend: I feel as if (1) I won’t be able to find a similar high school teaching position in an urban or suburban setting. (2) I’m going to eventually burn out at that level and (3) If I’m not growing professionally, I’m withering. At Stanford, CAL, or the east coast
me: and you don’t want to do administration either?
friend: Hell no.
me: LOL at your enthusiasm there. So how bout working at a tech firm? Doing some stuff in Google’s education department for Google Scholar or something
friend: There seriously is a market for quality, short education videos. The stuff on YouTube is mostly complete crap. I do want to make some money. That one thing I really detest/resent about this profession. I get paid the same as the crummy teachers. There is no merit recognition. Imagine how that would look in say… the NBA? A 20 year veteran raking in the dough for sitting on the bench mostly and a young talented player busting its ass for entry pay.
me: yeah. agreed but isn’t that a teacher’s union issue though. They serve as the advantage and disadvantage
friend: And that’s why I part of the problem is the union. We’ll never attract and retain quality if the pay system remains the way it is. I’m not saying it should be tied directly with test results, that’s simplistic bullshit, but that ratings, review, and test scores should provide some incentives. If they just paid me overtime for working with students after school is over, that would make me somewhat happy. But they don’t and most teachers, even at my school, are out the door and I look like a fool, monetarily.
me: yeah I agree, seems like our society doesn’t want to provide monetary incentives for teachers because of the “noble profession” label.
I don’t really have any easy answers but I know that fixing the school system will be based on tough decisions. I think we have to think more pragmatically because obviously our most recent idealistic approaches haven’t worked and tons of our children are being left behind. What are your thoughts?
Please share this with friends, enemies and temporary allies alike.
Thanks for reading, sharing and commenting!
Flickr image via hpeguk