This blog will not be like the others, where I include links to web sites and articles. Instead, I am shooting straight from-the-hip, so to speak. After a healthy ‘debate’ with a friend of mine on Facebook, I am still thinking about something I read in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution regarding the ‘assumed’ effect of teacher absences on student achievement. Our beloved and revered Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is at it again: Blaming teachers for 90% of what ails America’s public education system. (NOTE: In case you didn’t know, I am very sarcastic). One week, he claims that ineffective teachers are what’s wrong with Education. The next week, it’s the Teacher Education programs across the country that are ill-preparing teachers to get our students where they need to be. Well, week three and he has yet another epiphany: Teacher absences are to blame for low student achievement.
As I shared with my friend, who shall remain nameless, we teachers take what are called ‘mental health days’ from time to time, to regroup and refocus so that we can give 100% to our students. There may be some teachers in this world who have never taken such as day; there may be some who have but will never admit it. Whatever the case may be, teachers are human and need to, from time to time, recharge their batteries. Believe it or not, the need to recharge does not often stem from working with kids. Just the opposite: Working with adults who either do not act like adults themselves, or do not treat their colleagues with respect. During our conversation, I mentioned that sometimes teachers have the misfortune of working for an administrator who possesses both o the afore-mentioned qualities. It’s a reality in Education. Yes, there are many more people who do not fall into that category but we need to be concerned about the ones who do, because they may be few, but their impact could be widespread!
I am by no means claiming that every administrator is unprofessional or unethical. Furthermore, there are some ineffective teachers in the classrooms. What we, as a community (parents, students, teachers, etc) need to do is ask one simple question: How does a teacher become ineffective? Why does a teacher need to take days off? If you ask those questions, I guarantee the blame will rest on teachers or Teacher Education programs. We must not stop there because every state has some form of Teacher Evaluation program in place, where they are formally evaluated at least 2-3 times each year. Given that, how does an administrator evaluate a teacher every year and fail to note, discuss, and remediate deficiencies? No excuses. Teachers do it on a weekly basis for 25+ kids; more so for middle and high school teachers. I believe I covered the ‘why’ of teacher absences earlier, but if that explanation did not satisfy you, how about this one: Teachers get sick too. Teachers have families who get sick too. If you are allowed ‘sick days’ at your job, then teachers should be allowed those same liberties, especially if you send your sick child to school knowing that it is highly possible for others (including the teacher) to contract your child’s illness.
I say all of this to say, there have been problems with Education for a long time. Just as their have been with the economy, healthcare, etc. I agree that there is an urgent need to change the way we educate our kids (all kids, regardless of zip code, hues, etc). We are an industrialized nation when it comes to technology, but below third-world when it comes to quality Education. If your child’s teacher is balancing being the best and most effective teacher, whilst dealing with some trifling folks (yeah, I went a little ‘ethnic’) and needs a day off to rest and get his or her mind right, then so be it! The alternatives: (1) A completely new teacher before the end of the semester; (2) Two new teachers before the end of the school year; (3) a long-term sub for the remainder of the school year; or (4) the adult-drama spilling over into instructional time. Which one would you choose?
Lastly, whether you have time to volunteer in the classroom or are involved in the PTA, please take the time to thank a teacher. A simple email will do..just because. We entrust our kids with a stranger for 180 days a year, we can do more than b*^&% and moan 175 of those days.
You still my girl Nicole! (hee hee)