In letters to the editor in various newspapers, many people write that teachers are overpaid, underworked and should be thankful they have a job at all. I have two daughters who are teachers and they, among many other teachers I know, have a very different outlook about their jobs. So, I have tried to describe my views on the various characteristics of the average K-12 teacher, and the various public expectations of them.
Here are just a few teacher characteristics, some of which are not appreciated by the public: 1) First and foremost, teachers attempt to motivate their students, collectively and individually, to learn the “three R’s”, and various other subjects, as prescribed by their school district, and by the Federal Leave No Child Behind Act (LNCBA). In addition, for some of their students, many teachers are: 2) Surrogate parents, 3) Baby-sitters, 4) Narcotics agents, 5) Security guards, 6) Child psychologists, 7) Psychiatrists, 8) Nurses, 9) Counselors, 10) Librarians, and 11) Best (only?) friends. But teachers cannot legally risk being student disciplinarians!?
Many teachers arrive at school long before their students and go home long after the students’ last class. Many nights they grade student papers, prepare/modify lesson plans, contemplate how to deal with special and problem students, spend their own money for class supplies, and work nights and weekends to set up special class projects, or plan/arrange for class field trips. Teachers are paid a salary because school districts cannot afford to pay them by the hour, especially if they were required to pay overtime. To maintain their teaching credentials, improve their capabilities, and/or to be qualified for promotion, most teachers are required to take advanced education and other courses at night, weekends and/or during their summer “vacations.”
And last but certainly not least, most teachers in K-12 schools (and administrators in the school districts) must contend with the Federal Leave No Child Behind Act (LNCBA). This law emphasizes rote learning, relies on students’ abilities for test taking (beginning as early as the third grade), and if the students are not able (do not care?) to pass these prescribed tests, it is the teachers who are reprimanded, and their schools are downgraded for Federal funding.
I suggest to all critics of today’s K-12 teachers, try to put yourselves in their shoes. A little experience in visiting a classroom for a few days may be enlightening. And to witness their regimen for even a week might give a better appreciation of their services to our young people and to our community. Values adopted at a young age are usually lasting, and good teachers are worth much more than most are paid.
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