Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dear Congress, I'd Like You To Meet Little Johnny


"Merit pay for teachers increases student performance."  

 Really?  How are you going to measure that? In my opinion it's an excuse for lawmakers and states not to pay teachers. Decoys are always clever for awhile.  You want accountability? You want excellence on the job from your teachers in the United States of America? Here's an idea: Pay them what they're worth. Stop disrespecting them with subtle and not-so-subtle punitive measures if the students they're charged with don't perform to a certain standard. How many of you would survive the proposed accountability model?

It will surprise the pencil skirt out of me if there’s a decent teacher left in this country within ten years.

Here’s the problem with this school of thought if you’ll pardon the pun.
On any given day there are at least 6,000 reasons why little Johnny cannot learn.  And 6,000 more why he may never pass that end-of-grade test. Maybe he had no breakfast, maybe his dad got fired last night, maybe he has to face a bully in the hallway every 45 minutes, maybe his parents told him he didn't have to listen to the teacher, maybe he's on antidepressants ….maybe he’s just having a bad day. Maybe his mother’s on crack. Maybe she's even in jail. Maybe he’s embarrassed about his clothes. Maybe he has to babysit his little brothers and sisters when he goes home and can’t do his homework. Maybe no adult at home speaks English and he has to go to the clinic, the hospital or the court to interpret for his family.  Little Johnny has bigger fish to fry than answering twenty math questions and reading chapter 10 in the Social Studies book.  Maybe, just maybe, there is no parent in the house at all. Maybe there is no house and he is homeless. And sometimes even when there are two people sitting at the dinner table who call themselves parents, there is no parent! 
You want teachers to be held accountable for all that?
And then punish them financially and professionally when little Johnny cannot read?
We're just talking about one little Johnny on any given day.
There are 30 other little Johnnies in the same class with their own set of 6,000 reasons. 


Excuse me while I apply some good ole' common sense to this argument.
If the surgeon taking out your gallbladder brings his best skill to the table but you slip into a coma and die after surgery, the surgeon still gets paid.
With this accountability model in the operating room that the States want to impose on teachers, he’ll be required to forfeit his fee or at the very least return some to the family of the deceased. He should be fired from the hospital because his standards are obviously too low and publicly humiliated on the News.
Doesn’t matter that the patient was obese, had been smoking a-pack-a-day for 30 years and was diabetic.  The surgeon should still be held responsible for the health of that patient.   We know in our brightly colored crayola-schooled minds that he has no control over those factors. Don‘t we?  How many doctors do you know (sans the malpractice nightmares) who would continue to attempt to practice medicine if they had to work under that much pressure?


Why not demote and punish police officers if the crime rate goes up in your city? If they can’t keep the criminals in check on the streets then they must not be doing their jobs.  Shouldn’t they be accountable for souls and morals too?  Isn’t that fair? And BTW, PAY them.


Firemen should not be let off scot-free if a house burns to the ground before they get there. If they don't arrive within ten minutes, well, that's just not acceptable.  I say let's require them to build the owners a new one. Out of their own pocket. Buy the materials themselves even. That's what teachers do. It's only fair. Never mind that someone left a pot burning on the stove, flicked a cigarette butt off the patio or the wiring in the house failed. It is the fire department's fault.


Are college professors going to be axed if their students don’t get jobs upon graduation? Who is going to measure that? Does it matter they may have to work at  McDonald’s for 2 years before finding a better job because of the economy in the United States? Who is going to measure that?


Why not hold our elected officials responsible for every dollar that is misspent, misappropriated or just plain lost and make them pay it back via payroll deduction until they find it?  Why not?  I’m sure they won’t mind a little accountability.


Mental health workers should have to prove that all their patients are psychologically sound before re-entering society. If one falls off the wagon, commits suicide, or slips back into depression, I’d say the doctor and nurse in charge of that patient should be knocked down the pay scale a notch or two. Don’t you think that makes perfect sense?  How well their patients perform in society for the next year  should determine whether or not they get to keep their job. Are you going to measure that?

And why show preachers any mercy? Lead the sheep or lose your peeps. That's what I say.


Here's a thought:
I think every member of the House and Senate, every Mayor, Governor, and Presidential candidate in this country should be required to spend three consecutive weeks in a public school classroom. Not one day. Not a photo-op visit. Not a campaign trail stop. Their day will begin at 6:30 am riding the big yellow school bus and end around 8pm after all the papers are graded, duty is done, and the school football game is over - if they're lucky. Maybe, just maybe, after that they'll be qualified to give an opinion on how teachers should teach. After observing the classroom and the students he/she is charged with with all of them - right down to the kid with 13 modifications to the brightest and most bored child in the class, they should march back to their appointed stations and submit a dissertation to be read to their colleagues entitled Why Johnny Can't Read In The United States of America.

Don't worry. This won't take long on the Senate floor. Not a one of them will bring back the same account. They'll all be sent out for revision after revision until the eyewitness truth fades and one square peg fits into the round hole of compromise.
No one will even remember where they've been.


 When did it become sport and folly to punish teachers? Why have they become the modern day scapegoat for every ill of society? We all know there are incompetent educators just like there are incompetent employees in all other forms of enterprise, but the vast majority of educators went into teaching for love of learning and kids.  Nobody expected to get rich. But I doubt they realized teaching would be the beginning of bankruptcies and foreclosure letters either. Most of all, they are tired of being constantly worn down by unreasonable expectations to prove and reprove that they know what they're doing. And more than anything, even though they might want to be Little Johnny's parent, godparent, grandparent and teacher...they can't go home with him.

Dear Congress...Don't talk to me about merit pay, No Child Left Behind, or a million other programs that sound good politically but fail miserably in reality unless you've spent some time in the fantasy land we call Public Education. Every manner of society walks through a schoolhouse door when the bell rings. There is one teacher to a hodgepodge of undone homework, possible weapons and hunger pangs in every backpack.  No love of learning and kids can cure all that. No one human being should be expected to try.

It doesn't surprise me that some little Johnnies can't read. It surprises me that so many can.
School is a stressful place to be for most kids. Until those in power are willing to see what it's really like in a public school classroom day-by-day from the teacher's point of view, they'll just keep passing out band-aids and threats.

You want to fix public education? Get a bulldozer and start over. 
Okay. I think I'm finished.
Any questions?




22 comments:

lime said...

standing ovation from me. husband is a teacher and i am certified as one but can't bring myself to go work in the classroom. i'd stand up and have a good rant like this one when the first parent or administrator gave me some merit pay load of crap....and be fired forthwith.

i had an acquaintance, who is a house builder, say you cant fix the education problem by throwing money at it (referring to a proposed school tax increase). i responded by saying, "ok, go build me a high quality house that is the envy of everyone in town and serves as a model of excellence...but wait....i'm only going to give you a budget that covers the cost of the cheapest, crappiest materials available...oh and the payscale for any of your employees will be below average so they'll be the least skilled workers around because the skilled ones all found jobs with builders who pay better. and you can't even have enough poorly trained employees because you can't afford to pay them all. oh, and did i mention you have a deadline in which to complete your task? now get to it! still think some extra dough won't help?"

lifemultiplied said...

And she's back in full form! I'm with lime, standing ovation over here. Brava!

Mimi Lenox said...

Thank you. I rest my case.

I just realized that this part of my post was missing when you read it. Blogger!
I said, "I think every member of the House and Senate, every Mayor, Governor, and Presidential candidate in this country should be required to spend three consecutive weeks in a public school classroom. Not one day. Not a photo-op visit. Not a campaign trail stop. Their day will begin at 6:30 am riding the big yellow school bus and end around 8pm after all the papers are graded, duty is done, and the school football game is over - if they're lucky. Maybe, just maybe, after that they'll be qualified to give an opinion on how teachers should teach. After observing the classroom and the students he/she is charged with with all of them - right down to the kid with 13 modifications to the brightest and most bored child in the class, they should march back to their appointed stations and submit a dissertation to be read to their colleagues entitled Why Johnny Can't Read In The United States of America.

Mimi Lenox said...

Lime - Your points are excellent! What a great analogy!

Teachers are told everyday they will not be getting money for textbooks, materials, paper, pencils, needed classroom necessities, but oh, that doesn't matter, people still expect them to perform miracles with 30 kids in a classroom. And smile when they haven't had a raise in 5 years or more.

Yes, they love teaching.
Yes, they love children.
Yes, it is a JOB too.

Mimi Lenox said...

Life - Thank you. Glad my common sense sarcasm did not offend...YET...there is some debate on FB about whether or not I'm giving up on Little Johnny.
Nope. Not my point.

Nobody gets it unless they are a teacher, know a teacher, or have spent time volunteering in a public school.
And I left out the worst parts.
Trust me.

Sue St Clair said...

It sounds to me like they are basing this on a sales model forgetting "little Johnny" is not a cookie cutter product nor the teacher a sales rep.

This is a very good post, and illustrates to me a part of an even greater war on education and intelligence that seems to be going on in your country.

BTW I am not a teacher, nor married to one, but a parent of three who understands the uniqueness of every child's circumstances, capabilities, and needs.

Julie said...

**stands up and applauds**

I know you and I have talked about about teaching in general especially since SaraSunshine has decided to join this passion of yours. You're right teachers are mocked, spat on and spoken horribly by most segments of society. That's where the passion comes into play. Just like Christians.

Stand strong and finish out your career with a pencil skirt flourish! My prayers are that my daughter can do the same.

Mimi Lenox said...

Sue - Sales rep is an accurate description.

Every child deserves more attention that they're getting. EVERY child. Lowering class size would require more teachers, more building funds, more money. That is not going to happen anytime soon in the United States.

Mimi Lenox said...

Julie - My money is on Sara Sunshine wherever she goes and whatever she does. I don't want her to lose her passion for Art in the process of academia. That is my fear for Sara Sunshine.

Vinny "Bond" Marini said...

Well said ma'am... I hate that we are losing the best teachers to the private sector...

oh and HI JULIE!

Texan Zombie Goddess said...

It can be quite the circle jerk all around. The teachers who take the time, teach the kids, care about them and their well-being are told to stop butting into the child's life and flush them out the door. If they are here in Michigan, they also get fired because of no money. Go figure.

The teachers who ignore their kids, who quite literally throw a marker at a Deaf Mentally Handicapped child so they don't have to deal with them (saw this myself...I work with the Deaf in public schools), who put an A on every paper so the school can get kudos for the number of children they pass, get tenure.

Next weekend I go to a graduation party (under duress) for a girl who didn't even attend school the last two months but miraculously passed her final test...by 1/10 of a point.

The same high school received a large sum of money from millages and whatnot. Is it going to the students? To books? To hire new teachers excited to teach the future?? No. They built freaking TENNIS COURTS.

I'm going to back to homeschooling lol.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Standing ovation from me too. You have absolutely nailed it. I wish this could be read to the Senate!

Christine said...

Three cheers to you, Mimi. No, wait... four cheers! Five cheers! And why can't this be read to the Senate? Send this link to your congress people and demand that they read it aloud.

CyberCelt said...

Well, we cannot punish the legislature or administrators--they have power. We cannot hold the superintendent accountable because s/he is just in the job as a stepping stone for a better job. We cannot hold GW Bush accountable for all the children left behind.

So, we blame the teachers, illegal aliens, baby boomers, social security recipients, vets and the poor school board.

Frankly, if it was not for the dedication of everyday teachers, I do not know what we would do. But there is a limit to what you can ask while demeaning the profession.

Mimi Lenox said...

Vinny - We are losing good teachers for many reasons. And we are losing our most seasoned veterans of the classroom at a time when we need them the most.
"Out with the old" is sometimes not a bright idea.

Mimi Lenox said...

Sherry - Would they hear it?

Mimi Lenox said...

Christine - I wonder how many voices of opinion pass by the desks of legislatures everyday..unread and ignored. I don't think they're even paying attention when Congress is in session unless it's time to throw tomatoes at the speaker.

Oh. I think I should hush now. LOL

Mimi Lenox said...

Cybercelt - I wonder how people would feel if they had to get up everyday and face a job where it was commonplace - even expected - to be taunted, disrespected and vilified from start to finish. How many would keep going back? Who would do that?

Teachers do that.

Red Shoes said...

"Are college professors going to be axed if their students don’t get jobs upon graduation?"

As a college professor, we get fewer pay raises than our public school counterparts... I can't recall my last pay raise.

How to measure this?

I did receive 'Outstanding Professor of the Year" award at my university two years ago.

I always grade out very well on my teacher evaluations... as well as with my chair evaluations.

My students DO get hired.

Whatever...

I wish I got paid what I was worth..

~shoes~

Red Shoes said...

To further clarify a point... to 'throw money at education' here means that any monetary increases go to Central Offices and superintendents... the money never ever sees the class rooms or the teachers...

We have too many school districts and too many superintendents in Mississippi.

~shoes~

Sue said...

"Are college professors going to be axed if their students don’t get jobs upon graduation? Who is going to measure that? Does it matter they may have to work at McDonald’s for 2 years before finding a better job because of the economy in the United States? Who is going to measure that?"
Unfortunately, in the community colleges this is EXACTLY what they are trying to find ways to measure. So if you teach something that does not have some immediate practical job applicability (something like literature or sociology that makes better people or better citizens) you are really under the gun to explain how your classes make people employable!

Nicholas Temple said...

Excellent, Mimi. I have been concerned about these issues for over 30 years.

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