Michael Mosall, president of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Teachers Association in Saratoga County, was fed up with the teacher bashing that was pervasive in society a few years ago and, unfortunately, still exists in some quarters. To counter the critics and their unfounded myths, Mosall created “In Defense of Teaching,” a research document and Facebook page that sets the record straight. Below is his summation:
Teachers are not overpaid or overcompensated. Teachers do not have outrageous time off and, when they aren’t in school, they are likely working for free. Test scores do not define teachers. Teachers can be fired it they do a bad job and put in jail if they do something illegal — tenure or not. Teachers are not the root of all that is wrong with American education.
Unfortunately, as true as I may believe these conclusions to be, it doesn’t hide the fact that there are true emergencies in education. Young, bright, college graduates don’t want to be teachers anymore. The rancor of the educational debate has claimed an unexpected victim: the future of teacher preparation. They have seen the abuse teachers have taken over the past 10 years and moved on to different fields. This can only lead to less-qualified educators in our classrooms. America has a crippling social inequity problem that is not going away. Lastly, American education is under assault from private, moneyed special interests.
Rather than focusing on the true emergencies of education, we have distracted ourselves with questions about teacher compensation and time off. We have terrified ourselves with stories of teacher criminality. We have marginalized the impact of poverty and neglect on academic achievement. We diminish ourselves by believing firing a few bad teachers will solve our problems.
Teachers are not the problem. The sophistication of the debate is.
It is easy to blame teachers for societal ills but that won’t get us any closer to a solution to the very real problems many school have in America. As teachers, we need to stop believing the rhetoric about our compensation, the disparaging commentary about our performance and, most importantly, stop feeling sorry for ourselves. Teachers need to become the activists they once were and advocate for the solutions that will make schools better places for children. We have accepted the corporatization of our curriculum, the demonization of our abilities and the questioning of our intelligence. Teachers are the only true advocates for children in our educational systems and we need to start collectively acting like it.
If we don’t do it, who will?