Critique This

I’m a tax-paying, book-loving, mother, teacher and writer. All a part of me. Who I was, am, and will be. Every choice I have made in my adult years is with knowledge and analysis–I’ll admit even over-analysis at times.

But when I chose to become a teacher, it was after seven years of working with the general public–five years in the private sector as I worked through school, marriage, and having a child, and two years working at the county court house. And even after all of that–after random customers blaming me for corporate policies and me having to stand there and smile, just taking it as someone insults my intelligence–and after dealing with several insane people who would wander into the court house–I still decided that I loved people. In fact, I even loved those who many people in our society deem it necessary to ridicule at every turn… teenagers.

I often wonder how many people honestly sit and think it would be easy to deal with the drama and issues of the teenage lives facing teachers in the public education system. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my students… even when they annoy the hell out of me. Sound familiar, parents?

That being said, recent legislation and public discussions has led me to wonder about how people who have never taught a day in their lives think they know how to critique my profession. Now, I understand that some parts of education are plain-old commonsense, but every teacher will tell you that there is so much more to teaching than going into a classroom and pouring knowledge into brains. Politics, additional responsibilities, irate parents, pressures of passing students, keeping rigor, watching for drug use, enforcing dress code, monitoring halls, counseling students, consoling students… I can go on, and I didn’t even reach what most non-educators see as the primary function of teachers—-teaching the material.

So, when someone says they want to have performance-based pay for my profession, it always begs the question: how would YOU measure this?

ISAT scores which test skills that students should be developing over ten years of education? Okay, if so, which teacher receives the praise or the hammer? The eighth grade teacher? The current tenth grade teacher? The kindergarten teacher?

Maybe there’s another way to measure this… number of students passing classes? Two words – grade inflation. Besides that–how many kids are out there who simply don’t care about passing a class or having good grades?

How about having stellar looking lesson plans? Sounds good, right? But I’ve seen plenty of teachers who can write an awesome lesson plan but are horrible at relating with students. I’ve also seen amazing teachers who are not as organized with their thoughts when they put them on paper.

I know… graduation rates. Anyone who has ever taught a senior class which is required for graduation already knows of the pressures which come from admin, counselors, and parents to make sure seniors pass classes. So I don’t think that would really work.

What about student and parent feedback? I would love to hear what they have to say about me as a teacher, but I’m afraid that the only ones who would comment are those who I upset by not taking their late work or not allowing them to roam the halls whenever they please.

So what is the answer? How does one assess a teacher? For years there have been evaluations done by principals, but since many in the public apparently do not find this type of evaluation adequate, what is the answer? What should the criteria entail? Who should be involved? Will it help student achievement?

I would love to know the answer.

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