Anabel Fender is a graduate student in education at the University of Georgia. This is her first essay on the Get Schooled blog.
I think it is terrific and an ideal follow-up to the survey results I posted earlier today. Read them both and you will get a sense of what teachers are experiencing right now.
By Anabel Fender
I am an idealist. A dreamer.
And I am made out to be a failure before I even start.
I am battered and bruised from the war against teachers and I haven’t even started teaching yet.
Scripted curricula tell me that the “higher ups” have no faith in my words. My Words! An integral part of what makes me a teacher is not trusted, so I will be given a script telling me exactly what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. In what other profession do we not trust the words of the professional? Before I start, they make me question my words.
Merit pay initiatives imply that the teachers of America are not working as hard as they can already. In theory this initiative reflects the business world, but in the business world workers design their own goods and services. Teachers no longer have the freedom to design their goods and services – those are ready-made and required from above. It makes more sense to hold those creating the standards, curriculum guides, and scripted curriculum accountable for test scores – they are the ones making the “goods” and “services.” Before I start, they make me question my power.
In an effort to “improve” the teacher with scripted curriculum and merit pay, governors, federal government, and educational “reformers” favor alternative routes to certify teachers. Colleges of education are accused of using students as cash cows for funding research. Flyers for Teach for America hang on bulletin boards in the same universities. I am completely invested and have worked hard for my undergraduate and graduate degrees in education. I have made personal and financial sacrifices for a profession that will not give me great returns monetarily.
And policy makers have the audacity to think that a 22-year old business major spending six weeks of summer training to be a teacher is better equipped for teaching than I am. They help pay her loans, find a job, and offer funding for further education. But me? I graduate with education degrees when no one is hiring, teachers have no job security, and my student loans equal a teacher’s annual salary. Before I start, everyone is questioning my capabilities.
Teachers want what is best for students, but the current war against teachers is enough to wear anyone down. Teachers are constantly being told they are not good enough and then considered a threat when they speak out against injustices in schools.
Teachers’ tenure has been all but eliminated, furlough days are required, salaries are stagnant, and policies are written to fire teachers for being tardy but not to compensate them for their long evening and weekend hours. And since Georgia is a right-to-work state with no union to protect its teachers, teachers do what they must to keep their jobs. Teachers are afraid to speak out as intellectuals. Before I start I am questioning whether I am “allowed” to be an intellectual as a teacher.
I am battered and bruised but I am not going to question my words, my power, and my ability to be an intellectual. I will not let others define me, but I need teacher allies – former, current, and future teachers who will stand up with me and for me against this war on teachers. This is not about competition or jobs or our future. This is about improving our quality of life in schools so we can make schools powerful places for idealists to make their dreams a reality.
–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog