The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Waiting for Superman

Please go see Waiting for Superman. Really. I think everyone in America needs to see this movie. I think President Obama should rent out a stadium style movie theater and drag every member of Congress to see this movie.

I was terribly saddened to read the election results from our local election today in the paper. I knew them from the internet, but today was reading some of the comments by the two people who won seats on the school board. One of them is the head of the local teacher's union and the other made a comment about bringing back vocational education programs. "Not everyone's going to college- and they needn't be," she commented. Really?  Are you kidding me?  They needn't be? Yeah, and I guess they needn't be getting a good job either. There aren't exactly a bunch of jobs out there that will hire someone with just a high school education, vocational training or not. Post high school education is necessary for almost every job out there. Really, almost every unemployed person I know is someone without a college degree. It is very hard to survive without it. Why would you want to track kids into those positions? And would she be tracking kids of our local upper crust (which is incidentally, mostly white) into those vocational programs?  I somehow doubt that. And the other is the head of a union. Fantastic...

What Waiting for Superman points out is how seriously screwed our current academic system is. Most of my friends will know that I seriously hate people, especially middle class people who live in areas with excellent school districts, complaining that public schools are no good and homeschooling or private school is the only way to go. There is a lot RIGHT with public schools. Especially where I live where there are NO failing schools. But what's not right is that in many of America's biggest cities, kids in failing schools have so few options and stinky teachers get to keep their jobs and unions support and protect them as if they have rights. 

I know this is not a popular idea amongst teachers, but I don't think tenure should exist in public schools. I work in a charter school where I do not belong to a union and no one has tenure and everyone waits for the end of the year to see if he/she will get a contract for next year. Do I like getting to the end of the year and worrying if I will have a job? No, I don't. But I don't have to worry very much, because I know I am a really good teacher. Sure there are some  sucky politics to it too, and in this method, sometimes good teachers end up losing their jobs too, but it is a lot better than the alternative, where almost all new, but awesome teachers lose their jobs every single year just because they are brand new, while a cranky old teacher who doesn't really teach and does more damage than good gets to keep his job, just because he has "tenure." Nowadays, districts are playing games to keep teachers from getting tenure anyway, so why don't we just get rid of it altogether? It is really not all that complicated- teaching should be like any other profession. If you are not that good at what you do, your boss will fire you. Why shouldn't teaching be the same? But unions have power, and frankly, unions get in the way. I see why unions are good. I mean, with unions, changes don't get sprung on teachers last minute without any feedback from the teachers. The school where I work has committees and we supposedly get a say in everything. To be fair, almost all major decisions are made with great input from teachers, but sometimes, because we are not union, decisions happen that not everyone had a say in. The positive though... things get done fast (well, in relation to union districts). And bad teachers get fired. In my book, that's a good thing

I think I am going to run for the local school board in the next election. I think I could win. 

But, I digress... Please go see Waiting for Superman.

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