Midwest Opinion: High praise for work of teachers
The Fargo Forum Forum News Service Good teaching should be recognized and rewarded. Teaching is a calling. Oh, sure, it's a profession that requires specialized education, but the lure of the classroom for dedicated teachers is as emotional as it...
The Fargo Forum
Forum News Service
Good teaching should be recognized and rewarded.
Teaching is a calling. Oh, sure, it’s a profession that requires specialized education, but the lure of the classroom for dedicated teachers is as emotional as it is intellectual. The best teachers - the ones remembered by their students - master techniques that balance stimulating creativity with subject mastery. It’s talent as much as it is knowledge. Not easy to do.
As a new school year begins, it’s the right time to consider challenges today’s teachers confront. The classroom has become a microcosm of the larger society. All the ills afflicting children and families are concentrated in a classroom. It might have been that way generations ago, but on a much lesser scale. Unlike in the past, today’s teachers are expected to teach within a patchwork of mandates that has little to do with imparting knowledge to students, and almost everything to do with well-meaning-if-flawed iterations of social justice and impossible fairness-to-all standards. Somehow amid all that, good teachers indeed do teach. Students learn.
In addition to nonteaching mandates, public education’s problems include three factors: pay, place and the demographics of teacher education.
Pay and place are related. Most larger school districts in the region pay very well. Smaller districts struggle to achieve attractive salary levels. Also, there are small school districts where even higher-thanscale pay would not matter. Young teachers just won’t go there. That’s why states have been experimenting with a risky “professionals in the classroom” option that employs noncertified “teachers” to address teacher shortages.
Teacher demographics sneak up on school districts. As baby boomers retire, fewer college students are seeking teaching degrees at a time when the need for teachers is on the rise. Part of college students’ reluctance to seek teaching degrees is the perception that pay is low and that the profession is not as fulfilling as it once was. The latter perception is being fed by retiring teachers, many of whom are relieved to be out, and are candid about what they see as deteriorating classroom conditions and lack of respect for teachers from parents and school administrators. True or not, the message is heard.
Good teachers are remembered fondly. They make a difference. They see a spark in a student, fan it into the fire of curiosity, and often create a lifelong love of learning. It’s called teaching. As school begins, we should recognize their skills and honor their work.