Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I've been doing some listening. And reading. And thinking. And I've noticed a resounding juxtaposition in what I hear from educators.

First, there's this idea amongst union members that teachers are not respected, that we are not appreciated for the work for we do, and that we should be rewarded by having fewer requirements placed on us by administrators. A few select quotes from the MCEA discussion board to demonstrate this premise:

“Her point was that we don't stand up for ourselves. We have such an important task in front of us yet we are willing to settle for conditions that stand in the way of our success”

“Once again, this is a question of professionalism and how we are treated. “

“Nothing will change about our workload/time issues unless teachers find some way to say 'enough'.”

“It is time for us to let the county know that what is essential for good instruction, teachers, and students is the time to plan effective lessons, assess student progress, reteach and reassess. Right now teachers are working well beyond what they are paid to prepare for their students.”

"We are being asked to blindly accept a watered down contract with a few minor provisions in exchange for not getting anything of substance to appease an already divided work force"

On the other hand, I don't hear anyone saying that we wouldn't do this work if it weren't required. In fact, much of the work done by teachers when we're not teaching is not done out of contractual duty, but rather out of a good-hearted understanding of the nature of our job. We want students to achieve. And we're willing to do what is necessary to make sure this happens.

What I hear, is that teachers want to be rewarded and appreciated for this hard work. For eating lunch with one hand, while reteaching and retesting with the other. For going to a sporting events just to build a teacher-student relationship. For chaperoning an event at 7pm when they could finally be spending quality time with their family.

This reward, and here is where my views of the teaching profession are different than many of my colleagues, should be a merit based pay system. It is what we desperately want, but what we have convinced ourselves is not possible to attain.

As a profession, we're so afraid that we won't be evaluated fairly, we have boxed ourselves into a system that rewards us based on years of service instead of what we would desperately prefer. We don't really want one less meeting, or one less chaperon duty. What we really want is someone to come into our classroom and say to us, "you are doing all you can do, and you do it so well, that it with great honor and much appreciation that I inform you of your raise for next year."

Perhaps the largest obstacle to the creation of this new system, is that teachers have such an intricate understanding of the considerable variables that go into doing our job effectively, that we can't imagine a system that could effectively capture that success. But is precisely this intricate knowledge, that should be pooled together in the creation of a new evaluation system. Our knowledge is not the problem, it is the solution; an evaluation system created by us and for us that determines the amount of "step" or "raise" in any given year.

As a profession, it is clear to me that we need that affirmation. We need that reward. And not mind you, at the expense of collectively bargained pool of funds, but a redivision of those collectively bargained funds based on the delivery of quality instruction as judged by an evaluation system created by teachers themselves.

This is what we crave.


  1. Bravo! I think your sampling of comments does not represent some of the more ridiculous and extreme rhetoric we've seen in the past couple weeks. It is all quite fascinating, for sure. Most comments seem to focus on what teachers are entitled to (fairly or not), and not what will help the education system improve.

  2. I agree with what you've written here. I believe that tenure and yearly step increases do our profession a disservice. We are rewarded for surviving another year, not for the quality of the work we've done or for what our students have achieved.