Education reform is in the news a lot these days, which is good. But the discussion about charter schools and how to get rid of bad teachers is, I believe, based a flawed assumption.
Here’s a line from a recent op-ed in the Washington Post written by a group of big city school leaders:
“The glacial process for removing an incompetent teacher— and our discomfort as a society with criticizing anyone who chooses this noble and difficult profession—has left our school districts impotent and, worse, has robbed millions of children of a real future.”
Yes, we need to get rid of bad teachers. No doubt about it. But the idea that the teaching profession is noble and difficult deserves some critique. And it may explain why we even have teachers that we perceive to be inadequate.
I can speak only from my experience in middle and high schools, but I never felt “noble” while working as a classroom teacher. In fact, there were times when I felt downright selfish. The truth is that teaching and learning is so much fun that there were times when I reflected on my privileged existence and wondered how I got so lucky.
The obstacles that teachers face have very little to do with inherent challenges to teaching and learning, and is almost entirely a construct of the institutions we’ve created. The teachers at PSCS get to play soccer with kids, lead them in discussions about interesting TED talks, share a passion for Constitutional Law or Geometry or Music Theory, and share a lifetime of wisdom as they guide them through difficult choices.
At the end of the day, when we sit together and share appreciations for the wonderful things going on in our lives, I don’t get the sense that anyone in the circle feels as if they’re engaged in something “difficult.”
In fact, they’re engaged in something beautiful. PSCS tends to attract extraordinary people—both staff and volunteers—who are drawn to an environment based on passion and joy rather than grades and hierarchy.
These people are so extraordinary, in fact, that we never, ever need to spend time trying to figure out how to get rid of them.
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