“Teaching Isn’t Really a Profession”

Posted by Debby on 17th February and posted in Educational Politics, Teaching and Learning

In his blog post of the same title, Tom Whitby expresses a frustration felt by many teachers I know – the prevalent misconception that teaching is not a “real” profession. You know the old saying “those that can, do; those that can’t, teach“.  There are SO many common stereotypes about teachers. We have become the public punching bag for all that is wrong with the world!

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There are different levels of bias against teachers. As a college professor, I’ve always felt that my chosen vocational path holds a slightly higher esteem in the public eye than my colleagues in K12 (although I don’t know why, because they work WAY harder than I ever have had to do!). Within higher ed, there are perceived ranks: top-tier university research professor > state college research professor > university teaching professor > community college professor > adjunct professor. It seems like K12 teachers are ranked in reverse order of the grade they teach: high school > middle school > elementary > kindergarten > preschool. Heaven help you if you are a primary or pre-K teacher… you are just a glorified, overpaid babysitter! We’ve even become part of a currently popular meme floating around the internet:

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I strongly believe that any legislator that is involved in regulating education should have to serve a year-long  internship as a kindergarten teacher. In a school that dropped class-size reduction because of budget cuts. With no teacher aide in the room. And a limited amount of supplies so that they have to purchase materials out of pocket for their class. They should have experience in managing a room full of squirmy 5 and 6 year olds while trying to teach them all of the things that the core content standards say they should know by the time they move on to first grade. Kindergarten is no longer about recess and play dough and colors and shapes. You know, if we had stuck with the standards that were in place when I was a five year old, maybe we wouldn’t be in such a mess now (but that’s a subject for another blog post).

Are there bad apples (pun slightly intended)? Of course. There are in any profession. When I hear those horror stories of teachers doing really bad stuff, or teachers who are asleep at the wheel, or teachers who just don’t care, it makes me wonder where the administrators are who are supposed to select, train, support, and evaluate those teachers (again a subject for another blog post).

Tom closes his post, quite emphatically, with a statement that I agree with completely:

“I am a professional in the profession of education. I have worth; a great deal of worth. I am an expert in an area that required me to obtain and document years of education. I have proven my worth in my job every day as a professional teacher. Do not judge me by the actions of a very few. Do not label me a “Bad Teacher” because districts are not supporting fellow professionals with professional development. Many of my colleagues are civil servants, but they are serving a calling. They are not your personal servants. They are professionals in the Profession of Education.”

We are the experts in the classroom. We know our students better than anyone in Washington DC, or Sacramento or any other state capitol. We have years of experience and see the impact that foolish legislation has on individual kids. My question to my colleagues is this – what is our unified message? When are we going to stand up and say “Enough!”. How do we better communicate from a position of strength? And when will we lead the discussion on the critical question “What is the purpose of an education” because that seems to be the key question that no one in power is really addressing?

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