Monday, August 8, 2011

Vilifying a Noble Profession.

Last January, I started my Master’s program at one of the City Universities in New York City.  I wasn’t thrilled about starting the program because of a few bad omens- late responses in e-mail to time sensitive issues, seemingly rude and apathetic office staff, difficulty registering for courses, etc.  I had also begun to lose interest in the program I was entering, a Master’s in Childhood Literacy.  I had never wanted to be a reading teacher.  In college, however, all I was exposed to was literacy.  There was never anything else, like special education or teaching english as a second language, or even enough math, science and social studies to pique my interest. 

I started the program anyway, because I wasn’t about to waste a semester and the $4,000+ I had already paid in tuition and fees and books.  I hated just about every minute of it.  There was one class that I had really thought I would enjoy- a class on the theory and process of teaching writing.  I love to write, and I’ve seen many classrooms struggle with their writing programs, so this seemed like a wonderful class.  And it was, minus some of the textbooks, some of the discussions, some of the assignments, and some of the people. In fact, now that I think about it, the only assignment I really enjoyed was our personal narrative assignment, and even that is a tainted memory.  More on that later, perhaps.

New York City has recently had a surge in the number of Charter Schools present in the city’s education system.  I’m not a fan of Charter Schools, in fact, I’m pretty much wholeheartedly against them.  But- and this is a huge point of contention I have with my fellow recent graduates- Charter Schools can hire, as where Public Schools cannot.  Charter Schools aren’t union schools, the pay is horrible compared to the number of hours worked, and Charter Schools are lauded as the saviors of the education system, when in fact, they aren’t. 

Imagine my surprise when other students in my class told me that they HELPED THEIR STUDENTS CHEAT on STANDARDIZED TESTS that are LINKED TO THEIR TENURE.  I was flabergasted.  Not only was this happening in Charter Schools, but Public Schools in New York City and Westchester County (a suburb of NYC, where I went to College). 

So now these teachers help their students cheat, while my mom (a teacher) is evaluated based on her student’s performance.  Her students, who don’t speak English, who come to her reading on levels way below where they should be, who don’t know their addition, subtraction, multiplication facts- who speak in ebonics (“I already been done that” actually came out of the mouths of students on more than one occasion) and write the same way... she doesn’t teach them to cheat.  She doesn’t change their answers, she doesn’t walk around and point to the questions they got wrong so that they can change them... she follows the set rules for standardized testing.  She doesn’t compromise the integrity of the teaching profession. 

It makes me so angry! I read this article on CNN this morning, and it makes me sick to my stomach.  Clearly there is something very wrong with this whole picture, that teachers are reduced to helping their students cheat just for a pay bonus.  Most teachers I know don’t teach for the money.  They teach for the pure joy they find in it- and I am sick over the fact that these inconsiderate morons in Atlanta (and the idiots in my class) who are putting a black mark on the teaching profession.  They are a lead factor in turning teachers into villains.  It just isn't fair to the students, nor is it fair to other teachers.

No wonder we get so little respect. 

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