Band-aids

Here’s something that really grinds. my. gears:

As a disillusioned, passionate, and infuriated former teacher I am interested in studying teacher turnover.  Teachers and leaders kept telling me, “It’ll get easier as you go along, by year five you’ll be planning lessons in your sleep.”  I’m not trying to crush anyone’s dreams, but that’s just simply not true.  Every day is a battle.  A battle against school reform, a battle against oppressive systems that make your students angry, a battle against curriculum maps and what you’re ‘supposed’ to be teaching on the day that kids come to school crying because another black male was shot by a white police officer.  It doesn’t get easier.  All I was thinking at the beginning of year five was, “How the hell am I supposed to do this job for the rest of my life.  I’m exhausted.  This isn’t sustainable.  I can’t be a saint forever.”

So here’s where my problem with this little video comes in.  Up until about 1:30, the video is completely accurate, citing the affects of 30-40% turnover of teachers in their first five years on students and schools.  The authors state that job satisfaction is at an all time low, unreasonable demands from high-stakes testing and accountability put stress on teachers, lack of inclusive leadership leaves them hopeless.  I agree.  All of it.  But then, enter: HOPE.  The hope these authors present is mindfulness programs, mentoring, stress relief for teachers.  This is nothing short of a band-aid.  Teachers are stressed because of things that leaders and policymakers are doing to them – so let’s teach them how to do yoga?!  Here’s a thought, why don’t we begin evaluating some of the very policies and leadership strategies that are burning out teachers and change them – with teacher input!  Its ironic that we teach kids to treat others the way they would like to be treated, but then we completely leave teachers out of decisions that affect them every day.  I’m sure teachers everywhere would appreciate the lifting of weight off their shoulders more than yet another professional development session on how they should relax when they get an “unsatisfactory” rating on their next 20-minute classroom observation.

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2 thoughts on “Band-aids

  1. Okay, so several comments. I’ll start with the end of the video first. The narrator states implementing specific teacher programs (mentoring, wellness, etc…) will then improve student outcomes. What evidence demonstrates this? Many schools have teacher mentoring programs and wellness programs associated with their insurance already and these problems still exist. This leads me to my second point. Although this video is couched in a positive framework, it is actually deficit thinking directed towards teachers. Their simplistic solution is we have problem A, that we solve with B. However, they never actually ask A (teacher) why the problems are there in the first place, and what they think are possible intervention points. This is the crux of the problem in education, policies made from individuals who have not researched, investigated, or contextualized problems make sweeping generalizations implemented by policy and we end up no better off than before Plessy. If the people making policy do not study issues from multiple cultural and epistemological viewpoints solutions will re-produce the same outcome. This brings me to my last point, WE as a country, have never meant for school to be intellectually self-actualizing, equitable, or integrated. Education has been carried forth as a tool of assimilation, segregation, and economic stratification allowing industry to dictate their worker needs. Policy is a reflection of dominant thinking. If policy is to change – people must change their understanding of education and their willingness to destroy the gate keeping of knowledge.

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