A lot of people seem to think they’re experts in other peoples’ professions. Whether it’s saying how a business should be run, how journalists should write headlines and stories, or how snowplow drivers should clear our roads, they don’t let a lack of experience or even a lack of intelligence stop them from telling others how to do their jobs.
It’s hard to imagine a profession more under the microscope, or more subject to criticism, than teaching. We see it here in Shakopee on a regular basis. People complain about teachers to each other and online regarding what teachers should or shouldn’t do, both in and out of the classroom. It makes me wonder if people hold themselves to the same standard as they hold teachers.
Probably every teacher, administrator, and person who works in a school has stories of nightmare parents making outrageous demands or constantly complaining about something in the classroom. Several years ago, a dad complained to me about Red Oak Elementary. The problem? A few weeks into the school year, the kindergarten teacher didn’t realize that his son was a supposed genius and move him into advanced classes. For some parents, it’s never too early to start criticizing teachers and expecting special treatment for their kids.
This isn’t to say all teachers are perfect. Like any profession, there are those who aren’t truly engaged or infuse their personal beliefs into their work. A couple weeks ago, my son said one of his teachers told him and his friend during class that they have nothing to complain about in life because they’re white males. The comment is the antithesis of the message we teach our kids at home to not judge people based on race, gender, or any other demographic, but it didn’t cause me to phone the school to make a complaint.
I have a brother who went to college to be a junior high teacher. After doing his student teaching, he switched majors. He told me he couldn’t see himself teaching, especially long term, after being back inside a school classroom. He said schools have moved to a “consumer service industry model” that’s akin to McDonald’s.
That means when parents or students complain about a teacher, administrators think they have to accommodate them the way McDonald’s tries to make each customer happy. Each time this happens, teachers lose a little more control and autonomy of their classroom.
Myriad factors make teaching challenging and stressful, such as overbearing parents, disruptive students, a focus on standardized testing, sometimes unrealistic expectations to get underachieving students up to par, frequent meetings, and lack of budget. Several teachers have told me they spend money out of their own pockets to buy supplies for their classrooms.
These factors are taking their toll. A Gallop poll last year found that nearly half of the teachers in the U.S. said they’re looking for a different job or waiting for a new opportunity. This is bad news for schools on multiple levels, such as the fact that according to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, high teacher turnover negatively effects student performance and costs U.S. schools $7.3 billion annually.
Incredibly, a study by the Learning Policy Institute found that only 3% of new teachers receive the mentoring, collaboration, resources, and support they need to be successful. Another national survey showed that 58% of teachers describe their mental health as “not good.”
That’s probably why more than one in six teachers quit after just one year, according to data from the Department of Education. About 30% leave within five years. It’s also why they don’t need parents or others constantly criticizing or telling them how to do their jobs. If people truly want to make a difference in the classroom, they can step up and volunteer or ask a teacher how they can help.