Where does the extra fruit come from? One of the main issues in education is that so many different groups have strong opinions and ideas for what public education in America should look like. For this reason, schools are often susceptible to the influencing powers of various entities, most with good intentions, who are hoping to shape the future of education in our country. Unfortunately, all of these separate groups, with their differing agendas and ideas (as good as they may be), end up competing for the little space, time, and energy that teachers have to give them. Even within the structure of public education, there are influences felt from the US Department of Education, state departments of education, local school boards, individual administrators, and community groups - each with their own independent vision of what school should look like.
|Want to be a teacher? How good is your balance?|
This dynamic presents a problem. How many other "professions" offer their services for free? Sure, there are pro bono law cases, or the Hippocratic Code in medicine, but there isn't the same expectation that lawyers and doctors will do more than they are paid for on a consistent basis. Even if they do take on additional work, look at their salaries in comparison to your average teacher... there really isn't a comparison.
So what happens if teachers stopped performing all of these "extras"? Schools and students would suffer. Every teacher, administrator, and parent knows that school is about so much more than just the academic parts of the day. Each student has their reasons for showing up each day, and, believe it or not, it most often isn't learning quadratic equations. There are social, emotional, and physical reasons that students show up for school, and these are the arenas of childhood development that many "extras" specifically target. So many of the responsibilities and initiatives vital to creating a welcoming, supportive, and engaging learning environment often pile up on top of the academic instruction that is the foundation of what most people think teachers do.
The functionality of our school system relies upon the exploitation of the good will of our teachers. These programs and opportunities are important - to students, parents, teachers, and administrators- but they ask educators to consistently do more than what they are paid for, or even what is humanly possible.
And in taking on these additional projects, previous initiatives are cast by the wayside, effectively communicating to teachers that all of the hard work that went into designing, planning, and facilitating those efforts was discarded in favor of the newest vogue trend- a shiny new "piece of fruit". This creates a dangerous dynamic in which teachers feel like they are doing work for work's sake, without ever seeing the projects come into full fruition. This process is disheartening, leading to the frustration and disillusionment that drive many young teachers into leaving the profession.
Now, you're not going to see me casting my additional responsibilities aside. I will continue to stay late after school, hoping to provide support and opportunities for my students. However, I hope that people are beginning to take notice of the changes that are necessary to the vitality of our teaching workforce. Projects, programs, and initiatives need to be streamlined and teacher-directed. We need to have a voice at the table when decisions are made about educational policy at all levels of government. Ultimately, the future of American education should reflect the dreams, desires, and vision of our education professionals. Remember, we are the experts.