“True appreciation means understanding what teachers bring to the table and creating meaningful opportunities for them to contribute to the policies and practices that affect their school communities.”
via Rethink Teacher Appreciation Week | ED.gov Blog.
Reading this US DoE blog made me think back to the Stone Age, to my own K-12 education. Back then, there was a great deal more respect for teachers, and I think more involvement of teachers in whatever school they were in. If a teacher sent a disciplinary note home–and they were usually disciplinary–parents supported the punishment and brandished home-based discipline as well. Parents seemed aware of how little teachers made for their level of education, and actively supported teachers’ efforts to educate their children. Today, too many parents seem as antagonistic toward teachers as their children. Instead of assuming the teacher has accurately described the problem, it is assumed that the child’s view is correct and the teacher is out to get the child.
Only a decade after I was in school did some laws change. In the mid-1970s when I was looking for my first teaching position, principals still were allowed to ask if a female applicant’s marital status. A married female could get pregnant and leave teaching at any time, and there would go the money the district invested in training her. For years after marital status became a legal no-no question, male principals continued to ask it and base hiring decisions on the response.
As then, a teacher today is still more likely to be hired if he or she can coach a sport or advise a major student group, such as yearbook or drama club. Knowledge and teaching ability are secondary considerations. Schools claim that this is a way to maximize the value of their teachers, but the truth is that there is no reason why part-time coaches could not be hired. Sports, arts, and other extra-curricular activities are very important, but there may be a reason why so many students hate social studies and why US academic performance is lagging behind that of other modern nations.
Back then, classroom teachers had no say in the curriculum or educational policy, even within their own schools. Teachers’ unions like the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) tended to concentrate on “labor relations” issues, like pay, break time, and how far into a pregnancy a female teacher could work. General policy and curriculum issues were reserved for the school district administration and the school board. Today, the US DoE is encouraging active contribution by teachers and teacher associations to the discussion on educational reform. But it has taken an uncertain economy and diminishing education funds to bring this about.