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Teacher's View: Attacking teachers won’t fix what’s broken

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2556822","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"120","title":"Erik Edmunds","width":"90"}}]]A few important considerations were left out of the May 13 Opinion page commentary, "Gr...


A few important considerations were left out of the May 13 Opinion page commentary, “Great teaching can level the playing field.”We learned of “brave” parents bringing a lawsuit against the teacher tenure system on the grounds that tenure makes it too hard to fire ineffective teachers, and that this unfairly affects minority and/or poverty-stricken students more adversely than their peers in better-performing schools. It’s worth noting a carbon copy of this suit, Vergara v. California, recently was overturned on appeal, and a similar result is likely here.While I respect these parents’ demands for proper educations for their children, I’m not sure how “brave” it is to be a pawn, knowingly or unknowingly, in a disingenuous effort by educational reform groups to weaken teacher unions.These groups couch their argument in the “educational justice for all students” slogan, which of course, sounds very nice. In fact, lawsuits like these are wolves in sheep’s clothing with their main thrusts being to limit the power of the union and to do away with teacher tenure.A common misconception is that tenure exists to protect bad teachers and makes it impossible to fire them. Tenure exists to provide due process to teachers, and it provides protection for educators to voice their opinions about what’s best for students without fear of reprisal.I think we all can agree bad teaching is not something to defend; trust me, we strong teachers want the ineffective teachers out as much as the rest of the population.There are ways, though, to reform tenure without destroying it. We as a society should be careful that we do not get too overzealous with the punish-the-teachers talk. For every bad teacher we punish, how many good teachers do we adversely impact? How many promising young graduates do we turn away from education with all the attacks? Teaching is becoming less of an attractive option for smart young college grads, unless they are masochists.In this climate, I would strenuously urge even my own daughter to choose a different career path. Until we find a way to elevate the level of respect we exhibit toward our nation’s educators, no meaningful educational reform will take place, and the quality of our nation’s teachers will get worse because of the great teachers we run out of the profession as well as the potentially great teachers who are too smart to voluntarily jump into the public school meat grinder.If we want to fire all these “ineffective” teachers, how do we expect to find more qualified replacements? We certainly won’t do that by making teaching an even less appealing career. Continuing the beatings until morale improves is not an effective motivational strategy. Erik Edmunds of Duluth teaches eighth-grade language arts at Proctor’s Al Jedlicka Middle School.
A few important considerations were left out of the May 13 Opinion page commentary, “Great teaching can level the playing field.”We learned of “brave” parents bringing a lawsuit against the teacher tenure system on the grounds that tenure makes it too hard to fire ineffective teachers, and that this unfairly affects minority and/or poverty-stricken students more adversely than their peers in better-performing schools. It’s worth noting a carbon copy of this suit, Vergara v. California, recently was overturned on appeal, and a similar result is likely here.While I respect these parents’ demands for proper educations for their children, I’m not sure how “brave” it is to be a pawn, knowingly or unknowingly, in a disingenuous effort by educational reform groups to weaken teacher unions.These groups couch their argument in the “educational justice for all students” slogan, which of course, sounds very nice. In fact, lawsuits like these are wolves in sheep’s clothing with their main thrusts being to limit the power of the union and to do away with teacher tenure.A common misconception is that tenure exists to protect bad teachers and makes it impossible to fire them. Tenure exists to provide due process to teachers, and it provides protection for educators to voice their opinions about what’s best for students without fear of reprisal.I think we all can agree bad teaching is not something to defend; trust me, we strong teachers want the ineffective teachers out as much as the rest of the population.There are ways, though, to reform tenure without destroying it. We as a society should be careful that we do not get too overzealous with the punish-the-teachers talk. For every bad teacher we punish, how many good teachers do we adversely impact? How many promising young graduates do we turn away from education with all the attacks? Teaching is becoming less of an attractive option for smart young college grads, unless they are masochists.In this climate, I would strenuously urge even my own daughter to choose a different career path. Until we find a way to elevate the level of respect we exhibit toward our nation’s educators, no meaningful educational reform will take place, and the quality of our nation’s teachers will get worse because of the great teachers we run out of the profession as well as the potentially great teachers who are too smart to voluntarily jump into the public school meat grinder.If we want to fire all these “ineffective” teachers, how do we expect to find more qualified replacements? We certainly won’t do that by making teaching an even less appealing career. Continuing the beatings until morale improves is not an effective motivational strategy.Erik Edmunds of Duluth teaches eighth-grade language arts at Proctor’s Al Jedlicka Middle School.

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