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It seems the powers that be just can't stop making the teaching profession more and more attractive to would-be teachers. First, they gave us longer school days and longer school years. Then they began teacher testing. Soon after followed high stakes student testing, the results of which can threaten a teaching career, and certainly has caused some administrator reassignments. Then they took away teacher control of curriculum so that teachers have no say in how or what is taught. Then there is the erosion of teacher authority with the removal of corporal punishment and the lessening respect in the home for teachers, whose rules have little backup from administrators.
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However, we can't blame the administrators. They are forced into submission to parents by the threat of legal action and being replaced. The threat goes all the way up to the CEO of the school district. Teachers and administrators must conform.
Now there is talk in our state legislature of raising the teacher retirement age to 62 and doing away with the formula that allows teachers to retire when their years of experience and age equals 85. (It may be 90 now. Thank goodness I was under the old rule of 80. That's one good thing about being older!)
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Changing what often doesn't need to be changed is what legislators do. Having never been in a classroom except as a student and to visit on parent night, they believe they know what is best for teachers. They continue to make the teaching profession less and less attractive to those who would consider it as a career.
During my last year as a teacher I taught with three first-year teachers who seriously questioned their career choice. They felt stuck in a profession for which they had spent thousands of dollars being educated, a profession which offered few rewards other than knowing their students and seeing a few succeed, a profession which demanded much time and effort outside the classroom. They voiced many times that they had no idea they would have to work so hard. Something is seriously wrong here. Don't we want to attract and retain young teachers? Who is going to be there for our grandchildren?
Teaching is not an 8 to 4 job as many believe. Teaching requires as much time outside the classroom as it does inside the classroom in preparation, evaluation, and organization. It is draining emotionally and physically. Any time off is needed and much appreciated, even though much of it is spent in more preparation and education for the field.
I would suggest to those who believe that teaching is easy to try corralling 30 children or teens in one room and get them to do the same thing at the same time. Have you ever taught Sunday school or led a Cub Scout group? It's an exhausting feat just to get them to listen. And teachers today go way above and beyond that by actually getting them to perform and succeed.
I would say to legislators: get out of the business of the schools and let teachers teach. They are the professionals. They know what is best and what works. Stop taking the perks away from them. They deserve them. And next time you want to dictate how teachers should teach, go volunteer in a classroom for a week. You'll leave with a new perspective.