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Why Teachers Suck …

JUNE 10, 2017 / BERT FULKS

A friend and I were grousing about ignorance run amok.

“Americans get their information from internet memes,” I laughed. “And in the true
spirit of democracy, dullards who have never cracked a book will cancel the votes of
people who actually have a clue. What could go wrong?”

“You know what the problem is?” Tim challenged. “Our country’s a mess because
teachers suck.”

I bristled.

Although I’ve been out of the classroom for a number of years, once a teacher,
always a teacher. Plus, I have family and friends still slugging it out in the trenches.
I know their battles and the wounds they carry.

“Dude, do you know what teachers endure on a daily basis?” I asked Tim. I found
that, no, he didn’t. I fear most Americans might be as clueless.

I emailed a former colleague (she’s two years from retirement) and asked one
question: “How has education changed since you first started teaching?” A week
later I received six, single-spaced pages.
When Susan started teaching thirty-one years ago, she had six class periods (about
twenty-five kids per class) and two “preps” (subjects to teach). “We were expected
to do all the usual things” like developing lessons, grading homework and tests,
handwriting grade cards, and contacting parents “if and when necessary.”

(That last part made me snicker. Teachers will get the joke.)

A lot has changed over three decades, and though they haven’t broken her, many of
those changes have bent Susan to the point where she is ready to retire.

” Her state now requires documented learning objectives for every single student. according to Susan.” We have shackled our educators to a paper trail that. The teachers also have to submit paperwork for each formal observation. papers everywhere. and learning the ART of teaching. However—you guessed it—it comes with an avalanche of forms.” Meanwhile. some wizard waits behind the curtain to evaluate those documents and decide that young educator’s fate. “takes hours and does nothing to help the students. Some teachers fail only because “they don’t play the paperwork game well. “with the requisite pages of paperwork every time. including “all the steps to achieve that goal.” . one word kept surfacing: “paperwork. Susan sees new teachers “trying to wrap their heads around their preps. fostering relationships. Not a bad thing.” The same legislation saddles each administrator in her school with the task of 120 classroom observations. teachers suck … 1. In my first year of teaching. teachers have always been successfully mentored. … because of paperwork Reading through Susan’s career experiences.” “All forms must be submitted by 3pm. Friends.” Papers. I received tons of help from experienced educators who actually had time to share their wisdom with me … because they weren’t buried in bureaucracy. her own words reveal why she and teachers like her suck … — Gentle reader.While Tim condemns Susan as America’s problem. Susan’s school also has a mandatory mentoring program for new teachers. Both mentor and mentee spend hours preparing and submitting documentation instead of doing what they’ve been hired to do—teaching our kids.” but that’s hard to do because they must submit “a huge portfolio filled with hours of paperwork. classroom management.

But we can’t pin that on teachers. The result? Things like state and federally mandated testing. We have a generation of high school graduates who’ve been taught to worship some standardized test score but can’t think their way out of a corner. we have ‘accountability’. our district had to retrofit each high school (there are three) with more data ports / WIFI / whatever you want to call it. It came with a hefty price tag. Susan’s school just completed another round of mandatory testing. I would argue] testing rather than learning. just so we’re clear.” laments Susan. digital submissions might save some trees. They’re the ones left holding the empty bag dumped on them by short-sighted legislators. her sarcasm is delicious. . I see the fallout every day. “Our kids spend hours [weeks. but it doesn’t save our educators. … because of unfunded mandates.(Also.” Yes.” As an employer. “Because these tests are all online. “Our politicians are fond of making laws about education without any input from the people in the classrooms.) — 2. to be able to handle hundreds of computers needing bandwidth at the same time. “Great! More help from legislators!” “Since we don’t trust teachers to actually teach.

no matter their circumstance. our educators are constantly being required to do more with less. 504. mental or physical challenges. etc. the money always comes from schools which are already underfunded. . You’re not paying taxes to educate your own kids. On the subject of vouchers. They can use that money to send their kid to any school they want. that if one letter of that document isn’t followed with precise satisfaction. and that’s a terrific investment. but schools are now legal tinderboxes.) They aim to provide a quality education to every child. … because of litigation from parents “I don’t know what kind of catastrophic event would have had to happen in 1986 to cause a parent to sue the school. He’s already under assault by a parent waving around her kid’s unrealistic 51-page IEP. deficiencies (or giftedness). Administrators putting out fires: “Look. and it has to stop. (Google them if you don’t recognize them. IDEA … the list goes on. fat lose-lose. but they come with a heavy cost and the classroom teacher pays the bill. However. SLO. however. spending an excessive amount of time accommodating students who come in with these legally- binding documents. This guy knows.“Where did the money come from? Locally. another lawsuit!” I just talked with an educator who’s dreading the upcoming school year. Add that to the loss of learning time and it’s a big. ESL. we’ve got to change our perspective. — 3. vouchers allow parents to receive a tax credit equal to what might be spent on their child’s education. Schools are filled with letters and numbers: IEP. You’re paying to educate your neighbor’s kids. ELL. of course. because who wants dumb neighbors? Friends. In a nutshell. We had to spend our district’s money on a state/federal mandate without any recompense. These are all good things.” Susan writes. mom will file a lawsuit (as she has before).” A buzz-topic right now is school vouchers.

and time to do the job. Our schools are now responsible for raising children. they’re also trying to get the girl who’s been raped into counseling. trying to ignore what some yahoo has said about them on social media. “Not only are schools and teachers expected to fix all of society’s ills. clothe. answering emails and phone calls from angry parents. we are also expected to turn out a fantastic product. — 4. While they’re teaching their preps.” Susan says. “Cut and dried. and that role comes with a costly emotional and psychological investment. support.” And therein lies the biggest key to understanding why teacher’s suck … Our teachers end up parenting a lot of kids. Too many schools now have food / toiletry / clothing pantries for kids whose homes can’t provide basic necessities. and the ever-looming lawsuit threat only dims their brilliance as educators. Instead. Not many kids learn basic “life skills” and attitudes at home. These are run by volunteers … and teachers. One student in her school was recently caught selling her mom’s prescription pills at school. and trying to tenderly engage that . making sure the kid out of rehab stays clean and on track. not with a product whose outcome we can control completely. so we expect teachers to do what moms and dads won’t (or can’t). but refuse them the resources. and they’re also supposed to make sure the kids get fed. and parent our children. “This happens all the time. Teachers are often caring for students who are functioning orphans—and they do it for countless kids. right?” Not so fast.” The parents filed a lawsuit and the school district settled out of court. and filling out an insane amount of hoop-jumping documentation to help some politician get re-elected. Oh.” Teachers have to second guess everything they do and say. we shame them for not saving our fractured society. We ask teachers to teach. “The parents said it was the school’s fault that she stole her mom’s meds and sold them because the school didn’t diagnose her with ADHD.” and schools usually settle out of court to avoid expensive legal battles. … because of expectations from a broken society.Susan says lawsuits are now “common place. “It would be nice if it could be remembered that we are working with human capital. of course. feed. Teachers no longer simply teach their subjects.

discipline problem who’s now living on the streets because his parents are both in jail. grit. . Friends. You still want to know why teachers suck …? Let me finish the sentence. Teachers suck … it up and keep doing what they do because they love our kids. that’s reality. Teachers bleed for our nation’s children on a daily basis. They suck … it up and keep fighting the good fight because they are professionals with more heart. and it’s time we unshackle them from bureaucratic nonsense and give them the resources and support to do the job they are called—and trained—to do. and passion than anyone I know.