Earlier today I posted about the decline in students choosing to go into education as a career.  My friend Tom Brandon, a longtime teacher in Madison County sent a great response.  (Tom has the delightful blog, Mr. Brandon’s School Bus, that everyone should visit from time to time.  His most recent post is classic.)

Here is what he had to say this rainy morning.

Let me start by saying as a teacher of 30 plus years I have loved teaching and working with the students that I have been blessed to work with.  Yet, as I talk to my colleagues I believe the problems of education can be found in three areas:

1.  What little respect there has been for teachers has been lost over the years.  Teachers are not treated like professionals.  Every decision they make is questioned by parents, the public, administration, and by governmental agencies.  Education has long been the political football.  Everyone feels they know what’s best for education and how it should be done because they were a student once upon a time. 

I have been in the hospital before but that does not make me qualified to be a doctor. I was told recently in a teacher training class, “Before I try to find out why Johnny is having problems I need to look at myself and ask what is wrong with me.”  This is an insult to teachers who have given their lives to helping and will try any way they can to help a student, especially considering the differences we encounter in our little charges.  This is no different than the parent who has a child with a failing grade and believes that it is the teachers fault. not their child, who does nothing to earn the grade. 

As an educator I cannot use my professional opinion for anything. If after working with your child for several weeks I decide that he is having a problem reading I must do six-eight weeks of standardized testing to prove what I knew all along. 

2.  There is one way to teach and every teacher should teach in that way.  Like an assembly line each part must have the same thing done to it and in the same way to turn out the correct product.  If it is true that students have different ways of learning then does it not seem reasonable that teachers should have different styles of teaching.  The way one teacher teaches may be effective for them but not effective for another teacher.  Yet teachers are asked to be cookie cutters.  If  teacher X has a colorful bulletin board that is full of information and has an attractive appearance, than teacher Y must also have a bulletin board in like manner.  We must all introduce our lessons in the same way, present them in the same way, and end in the same way.

3. There is a great lack of communication from the top to the bottom.  A teacher will be told in one meeting that standardized test scores are not our end results but that we need to educate the student.  In the next meeting standardized test scores will be flashed up on the wall and those conducting the meeting have a problem with them. 

The state superintendent says we are not focusing on standardized test scores.  But at the local level administration is concerned because it is a reflection on the local school when the results come out.  Results of testing are given to the public without regard of the whole picture.  How many students are in my class are special needs students, how many come from homes where they have been between mom and dad multiple times only ending up living with the grandparents.  The number of students that go home to empty houses and no one who would help reinforce what they have learned that day. 

Like any profession there are good teachers and bad but those that stay in the profession do so because they love teaching.  Those that leave do so because of those things that are out of their control. 

Not once have I talked about pay–that’s a whole different matter.