Where does an educator go from here?

I am fully aware that there is a bullseye on my back. As a teacher, this has certainly been the case for quite some time, but never has this been more obvious than in the past year or so. I’m not really sure when the anti-teacher sentiment truly got rolling — I honestly don’t remember this type of vitriol when I was growing up. But I’m not looking to turn this into one of those I walked two miles to school, uphill, every day stories.  (In actuality, it was about a mile and a quarter, and only uphill on the way there…)

Make no mistake about it — this is a critical time in the lives of ALL teachers. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, or South Dakota — it’s a critical time. Respect for what we do is at an all time low and people are quick to jump all over the system at the same time. I’ve heard all of the criticisms and I’ve shared my thoughts about many. But when you really take a step back and take a look at what is being proposed, I hope that you’re as appalled as I am.

This morning I learned more about the current reforms that are being proposed to alter the way education is “done” in Pennsylvania. Included are the following: no more carrying over of sick days, one pay scale that is based upon a bachelor’s degree only (so you will not earn more for having a Master’s or Doctoral degree), no bereavement leave, no sabbatical time, no tenure, and school nurses will no longer be required to be a Certified School Nurse. These are just a few of the things that are hidden in the current bill that’s working its way through the Pennsylvania Legislature — changes I might add that have not been out in the open for the public to see. So much for a need for transparency, I guess.

In addition, our school board conducted its discussion meeting last night and, as can be expected, had to discuss some very grim topics. An article detailing last night’s meeting can be found here. Simply put, this is definitely not a time that I envy the role of a school board member or an administrator who is in charge of trying to figure out what to do when the state suddenly feels that you are less worthy than you were last year — to the tune of $1.6 million less worthy. Making the decisions to cut programs that benefit students and whether or not to furlough teachers in these economic times cannot possibly be an easy one for anybody involved. We will all be asked to do more with less — and I realize that, but we have to be fair in how we make these cuts and changes as well.

What can’t be lost in all of these tough decisions is that we have to keep the most important factor in the forefront of our minds when we make these decisions: our students. We must all work together to ensure that everything is done to protect the educational experience that our students have come to (rightly) expect. We must understand that elective courses like Digital Communications and Basic Design and Chorus and Calculus and Yearbook are vital to our students’ educational experience. Life isn’t only about English and Algebra and French and Biology.

Lost in all of these decisions is the fact that the United States continues to fall behind in worldwide rankings of student performance. Do we truly believe that cutting funding is going to change this? I’m all for being fiscally responsible, but this slash and burn technique that so many feel is the way to go is not going to dig us out of any holes. Again, we must keep our students in mind when making decisions, and quite frankly, I don’t feel as though they’ve been in the forefront of the political agendas that have been playing out in the past year.

Reform in the field of education needs to happen — badly. This kind of politically based reform, however, is appalling and it should be appalling to every citizen in our country. Decisions are being made for all of the wrong reasons, and this needs to change — it’s irresponsible at best and it needs to change. I truly wonder if the people of Wisconsin would take back their vote for Governor Walker if they truly knew his intentions. The same goes for Governor Corbett in Pennsylvania. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if there are recalls in the works or how the next election goes.

In many cases, I find that song lyrics can sum up what’s going on in the world — this case is no different. In the words of Depeche Mode’s (more specifically Martin Gore’s) New Dress:

You can’t change the world

But you can change the facts

And when you change the facts

You change points of view

If you change points of view

You may change a vote

And when you change a vote

You may change the world…