23 August 2010

What's that Phil Collins says about another day?

Today, I broke up a fight.


It wasn't even a good fight, like between girls, or junior boys. Nope, this was freshmen boys. Together they might have weighed 95 pounds, 96 max. They even stopped fighting once they were in the patented "double head lock kick the call button" hold that I dropped on their heads like I was Chuck Liddel.

All in all, not the greatest fight I was ever involved in stopping (those honors belong to that trash can fight I've referenced before, and am referencing right now).

But it did make me think about what other jobs I've had, and if they ever presented me with the serious potential to get hit in the kisser. I've worked in retail, at a summer camp, and on the NASCAR circuit, but none of those jobs have offered me the potential to get hit. In fact, none of them have offered any serious competition in the "you won't believe what happened at work today" category.

And that's what critics of public education don't get. They are quick to talk about ineffective teachers, and the failures of schools. They want to turn education into a series of schools where people get to "choose". They want schools that don't meet ever-moving targets to go out of business. They often argue that if funds are stripped from schools, schools will get better.

I'm not going to refute that, it's been done by Diane Ravich better than I ever could.

I think their problem is bigger than being wrong about the economics of schools (they miss that teachers and schools don't exist, for the most part, for profit). Their problem is that they don't understand teaching and education from the front of the room, they only understand it from the students' perspective.

Let's say you have a job in an office, and you go to work. When you have a meeting with a client, to try and convince them to buy your product or service, it's a big, stressful deal. You put together presentations, and practice. You put on your Sunday best to go to work that day. And when it's successful, you go out for dinner to celebrate. On top of that, you're judged by not just if the clients buy, but if they really understand what you're selling. Oh, and your clients might just hit each other, mid-meeting That's what a high school teacher does between 3 and 7 times every day.

Then, they go home and grade the assignments they've collected, and if they're motivated, perhaps they plan for next week. They make their own copies (how many kids are 6th hour? 34 or 36?), they don't get coffee or bathroom breaks, and they provide children with the skills they need to function and succeed in society. And on average, they do it for $43,000 a year, before Uncle Sam gets his.

Now, I'm not complaining (much), but I am saying this: the next time your good friend, your co-worker, that lady in Sunday school is talking about how you "just won't believe what happened in school to my kid this week", listen (because I wouldn't want you to be inpolite), and then pause for a moment, and think about the stress that teacher is under everyday. The teacher may have done something wrong, I know that I screw something up every day, however, they probably did 99% of the day right, so maybe you can find it in your heart to forgive them.

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