Saturday, May 28, 2011

Who's Really Winning and Losing?

In the NFL, their current labor dispute has led many to talk about who may come out winners: the owners or the players. Meanwhile, many are asking the question: what about the fans? The thing is, with the NFL, they are a business whose primary goal is to make money. Their secondary goal is entertainment. So the fans aren't a part of the equation, as they are a secondary concern. As long as their marketing deals don't fall through, they'll still have their money, and will likely continue to sell out their games, for a variety of important reasons.

In U.S. Education, the latest dispute has been between teachers and their states. Unlike the NFL, there has been a significant decrease in total funding lately for public education, and there has been a lot of public outcry about where and how the needed cuts will come. This has led to a backlash of bile being spewed at teachers, demeaning the profession, and leading to many reforms that seem to have as a core belief the idea that teachers do not get better as they gain experience, and their job could be done by just about anyone.

Meanwhile, many who are speaking out against teachers are not asking the question many teachers are: what about the students? There seems to be this disgusting discussion about whether the teachers or the states are winning or losing (I didn't know there were winners and losers in education, but okay). But you know who's losing, no matter what? The students.

Imagine that you are a student, going to a public school this year. Being as you have a good teacher, you are encouraged to pay attention to what's going on in the world around you. So you do. And you hear how teachers are lazy, and how there is this magical formula for good teaching, and basically that these teachers need to get over themselves, because just about anyone could do their job. Are you going to respect your teacher? Maybe. Maybe not. But it may not matter what that teacher does -- your mind is probably already made up on the profession all together. And when there's that loss of respect, you're going to tune out what's going on in the classroom. And you, the student, lose.

But maybe that's not true. Maybe this antagonism of teachers hasn't given extra cynicism in our students about the educational system. But it certainly has given confidence to parents who are sure they know that the teacher is not doing the best they can for their little angel. And it certainly has dampened the spirits of teachers across the board. Those things alone can easily combine for a classroom that is not as uplifting and supportive of students as it ought to be. And the students lose.

But maybe that's not true. Maybe the students don't lose respect for the teachers, and maybe the parents are still supportive, and maybe teacher spirit is as high as it was before. But the state is still getting rid of good teachers and keeping good teachers from entering the profession. And there is less and less worthwhile help for struggling teachers who could use a little guidance. And the students are losing.

But maybe, just maybe, teachers do know what they're talking about. And maybe they'll be allowed to negotiate their wages in a fair way -- during the summer, or the "off season," as the NFL does. Maybe they research they do and the innovative practices they come up with will be supported. Maybe they will be allowed to teach the way they know how to teach.

And the students will win.

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