Teaching Professionalism

That strike in Chicago — it’s over finally.  Thank the Lord above.  Students in one of the nation’s largest school districts were denied access to any sort of public education for seven class days, according to an article in the New York Times.

And that’s completely unacceptable.  The fact that teachers would abandon their students to negotiate petty contract issues, like extending the school day (in a district that already has one of the shortest school days in the nation) or securing pay raises (something that no one is ever assured of in the private sector, and in a district where teachers, on average, already make $76,ooo a year; much more than the average household income for the United States – $51,914).

I know I’ve written about this before, but this complete lack of professional ethics is infuriating.  And I hate how people are making excuses for them: “Oh it’s just a few teachers; not all teachers are like that” or “They have a right to better pay” or whatever cockamamie excuses we can come up with.  These people are the reason why teachers aren’t “respected” as a profession.  Because this doesn’t represent a “small” percent of teachers; this is an entire teaching staff in one of the nation’s largest districts on strike.  And they’re only one example of teachers who strike on large scales like this: remember the Wisconsin walk-outs last year?  Where teachers all over the state left their classrooms to picket the capital?  This issue is pervasive and widespread all over the country.  It affects more people than we care to realize: especially our students.

It’s completely marginalizing to our students.  We’re telling them, quite clearly, that we put our own wants before their educational needs.  It’s so hypocritical for us to talk about classroom differentiation and creating welcoming and “safe” atmospheres in our classes when we’re ready to abandon them to get a fatter pay check.

The really frustrating thing is: we don’t need better pay.  We don’t need more benefits.  We don’t need to be pampered.  Teachers are paid incredibly well, considering how much we work (we get summers and winters and all major holidays off).  We get obnoxiously nice benefits (health and life and pensions and paid sick leave).  And the very idea of tenure is offensive to anyone who has had a job where they weren’t sure if they were going to be there next year — or next quarter — or next week.  People get laid off all the time.  It’s what happens in a tough economy.  Why should teaching be any different?  Why is teaching sacrosanct?  “Because we’re preparing the next generation and shaping minds and souls and blah…”  If we were that committed to our students — we wouldn’t be striking in the first place.

I feel quite confident in saying that if you are not loudly condemning these strikes, then your are actively supporting a “profession” that marginalizes students while espousing self-righteous garbage as justification.  You cannot claim to be a “good teacher” and willfully abandon your students; you can be as indulgent as you want and gripe about how “underpaid” you are, but when you walk out of a classroom you are crossing an ethical line.

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