To the Editor:
Regarding teachers and their level of job satisfaction (“Survey: Teacher Job Satisfaction Hits a Low Point,” March 7, 2012): “Lows” in job satisfaction have much to do with outright disrespect for their profession and the people actually doing the job of educating children.
Critics try to poke holes in the amazing work done in public schools, and when weaknesses in their arguments arise, criticisms shift to another angle. U.S. students are first compared with students from other countries: When you realize the wealth gap of other countries is far less, students there are more homogeneous, the school systems decide who is educated and toward what end, and teachers are well respected and compensated for their work ... well, we can’t have that now.
U.S. schools are victimized by bureaucracy and a testing industry that has leeched off the public, pulled the strings on how we educate children, and is now pulling harder. These days, they are joined by private charter “school” interests looking to capitalize on public funds. They push “school choice,” which will certainly separate the easiest to educate from the most needy students—instead of entering into the same tiring but rewarding battle that real educators take on.
The new tactic is to focus on the cost of teachers and teaching, by way of attacking the skills of the teacher. Students, families, and the school professionals most familiar to them and with them are treated as objects to be manipulated and objectified—turned into data.
The key to increased job satisfaction for teachers is to give them the respect they deserve. Acknowledge the truly amazing things they do beyond the ABCs and 1-2-3s. Don’t whine about pay that overall is median level, if that.
And mostly, don’t allow silver-spoon politicians and their cronies who have little to no experience in real, struggling public schools to pretend they know what will work.
Want to see job satisfaction and improved outcomes? Hand over some of this “reform” to real teachers.
The writer teaches 3rd grade in a public school district in New York.
A version of this article appeared in the March 28, 2012 edition of Education Week as Criticism Causes Job Dissatisfaction