“Not once did I hear a young man – and this is nearly 400 boys put through the program
– ever say, ‘I want to be a teacher,’ said Rivas, who founded Encuentros Leadership in 2003 to address the critical educational,
social and economic issues impacting the quality of education and life opportunities
for Latino boys. Continue reading
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So for now, I quit teaching. I quit not because of my students, who were wonderful, bright, capable, eager-to-learn, and deserving of a better educational system. And deserving of a more-experienced teacher, probably, but I did my best for them, even those unfortunate kids during my first year of teaching. And I didn't quit because of an administrator, or a boss, or a colleague.
I quit because the system is demeaning. It's a structure that consumes everyone in it, from the top to the bottom. I didn't quit because of a single school -- I quit because of the pattern of inanity that is replicated throughout the whole country. Our schools are still living in a post-World War II fantasy.
So the rage of teachers is building. You can see it in the impending strike in Chicago. You can see it in the protests in Wisconsin. Teachers are slowly realizing that we hold the power.
So what is the answer? Unions? Hardly. We can't allow union leaders to absorb teachers, to use them as a platform on which to stand. Our union leaders have failed us. Union politics have contributed to us getting to this point by forcing administrators to deal with them rather than teachers directly. They teach us that we cannot speak for ourselves; they teach us powerlessness. Union leaders are too often mere mouthpieces skimming off teachers' paychecks.
What teachers want is so fundamentally basic to professional life. All people want to not only do what they love, but to be respected for it. We shouldn't be negotiating for a 1 percent pay raise; we should be negotiating for enough money to take a vacation, to lease a car, to start a family. We should be negotiating for enough to attract top talent, and for raises to be given to the best, not the oldest. And we should be negotiating for structural changes that will allow top teachers to be recognized and given leadership positions while remaining in the classroom for their entire careers.
No matter how much we regulate, we will always have to trust our teachers to be our surrogate parents, to take our children for an hour or six a day, to protect them, and to mold them into better people. Teachers matter more than superintendants, more than senators, and more than businessmen. They make us who we are. Teachers are the ones who make the day-to-day decisions for the future of our entire nation, and we must start trusting them again.
If we continue to treat our teachers like children, what will become of our children?
Academically, first-generation students perform poorly compared to their continuing-generation peers. Not only do first-generation students have lower overall college attainment rates (Billson & Terry, 1982), but those who do complete their undergraduate degrees take significantly longer than non-first-generation students (Terenzini et al., 1996). While in college, first-generation students report lower GPAs than continuing-generation students (Warburton et al., 2001).
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