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05:13 PM on 04/14/2013
I once entertained a progressive fantasy about helping to mend our educational system. My pipe dream entailed those college students on track to earn their four-year degree being required to put in some set amount of months working within our schools. We would get young adults "in the trenches" helping with subject matter, more supervision of students, and some subtle pressure on teachers toward excellence. There could be some sort of loan adjustment, etc. After a time, it would bring our culture around to "buying in", to realizing how fundamental, how vital, kids' learning is to all of us. Communitas.
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04:50 PM on 04/14/2013
The public school system began its downward spiral when some lawyer convinced some judge that school children had rights and shouldn't be disciplined.
Cogito ergo sum. Cogito.
04:35 PM on 04/14/2013
Well, Randy, you had my attention until you threw in the "(in both parties)" bone to the right wing. Hedging and using false equivalences is not a good way to present your case.

The fact is, for decades a major goal of the far right has been to destroy public education in the United States. The right knows it can't kill it in one fell swoop, but has to go about it incrementally.

Like much of what the right wing wants to destroy, they continually chip away at the institution by reducing funding, creating additional spurious goals, redefining success, and belittling the people involved. They have a network of groups that will continuously repeat their attack points and mislead the public.

The public does occasionally wake up and push back against the republican schemes, but for the most part they have been successful in eroding the strength of and support for the public system.

Your advice to young people is correct: avoid a career in teaching for the worst is yet to come.
04:08 PM on 04/14/2013
It's true- teachers still have unions, time off and health benefits. They still expect respect and security at work. Why should they have that, when most folks are cringingly conforming to the Disposable Peon model? Perhaps for the same reason that we remember our teachers with admiration and affection, and live with skills and goals they taught us. They preserved and offered the best of our civilization. When the guru wannabees with their armies of bean counters, sneering political critics, "educational experts" and budget-gobbling bureaucrats decided they should reform our benighted institutions, schools immediately began losing respect and support.
Caught in the thick of thin things
04:08 PM on 04/14/2013
Even when I graduated in 1965, the mantra was "Those who can do and those who can't teach." This, I suppose kept lots of young men from teaching, but smart young women were encouraged to teach, so many of us did. We were not nearly as prepared as teachers are today for what we would face. The curriculum we taught was not nearly as rigorous, but we received a good deal of respect from parents, students and administrators and, for me, teaching was a pure joy. I noticed the change in the late 1970's when we first moved to Texas. The governor spent a great deal of time denigrating teachers and finally required all of us to be tested in order to remain certified to teach. This notion of questioning the worth of teachers continued in Texas and we were at the forefront of the high stakes testing movement. I served 37 years, 14 as a principal, and finally threw in the towel because I could no longer work in a system whose main purpose is enriching companies and re-electing politicians while they convince the people who most need educational opportunities for their children that public education should not be properly funded because we are not up to par and more resources won't help. Thus, I encourage young people not to teach and I would like to encourage employers to hire former teachers. They have many skills that will serve you well.
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12:15 PM on 04/16/2013
I wish you were my principal!
bites when poked
03:40 PM on 04/14/2013
While I sympathize with Turner's point, the answer is not to discourage young, intelligent people from being teachers. Far from it. We need good teachers like no other time in history. And, yes, I am also a teacher. I don't make much, but I have far more job satisfaction than I've seen many of my friends receive in higher-paid employment.

The damage that's done with this type of wet-blanket philosophy is that some reader somewhere out there will take it to heart, who might have had the potential to inspire someone, even save their sanity. But now we'll never know, will we?

How about we fight the forces trying to dismantle public education with renewed vigor, and provide an example of indomitability to our students, rather than defeatism? No matter how hopeless the cause may be, I'm carrying on the fight.
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03:29 PM on 04/14/2013
I am a retied cop who works as a substitute teacher. I agree with Mr. Turner and I no longer work as a substitute teacher in the Chicago Public Schools exactly for many of the reasons he describes.
08:35 PM on 04/14/2013
Fanned, Mr. Hammer. All complainers should teach for one week in the public schools. If they did we would fix the school problem in several hours. Would I tell my dentist how to drill teeth? Of course not; but, people who have no clue as to what education entails are the ones organizing it. Oh dear.
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standing on fishes
03:01 PM on 04/14/2013
"what other profession would allow me to make $37,000 a year after 14 years of experience and have people tell me how greedy I am?" Teachers have been reduced to whipping posts for opportunistic politicians. This devaluation is likely to continue. Maybe in the future teachers will be replaced altogether by robotic systems. Then the only people involved in the system besides "students" would be computer technicians, proctors, and security personnel.
05:28 PM on 04/14/2013
I think I need to take Prozac after reading this.
06:04 PM on 04/14/2013
Please don't forget the advertising, the captive market goes to the highest bidder/contributor! The buy and sell!
02:49 PM on 04/14/2013
I did a little substitute teaching for a few months in two different periods after graduating in '79. It was between career changes and I thought about going into teaching which would take another year of classes for certification both times. First time was in 1980, next time was about 20 years later. This is a rough assessment but gives you a chance to appreciate my "neutral observation" and simple way to put it, although keep in mind that kids will be a little more difficult with subs (although I went to the same high schools often and they got to know me, and learned I was a little tougher than most). The simple way to look at it is - think back to when you were in school decades ago, if like my average public high school you could say every class (except advanced/honor ones) had one or two really rowdy tough to deal with kids that teachers dealt with. That was the case in my 1980 sub teaching basically. Twenty years later, it seemed like twice or three times as many kids (like 5 or so) in each class would fall in that category of being too rowdy and always distracting or challenging the teachers. Maybe the answer is going the European training route, move those rowdy kids into vocational and trades training by say age of 15 or 16, etc. because they sure aren't going to college directly
05:28 PM on 04/14/2013
I have to say it is a very good ting you did not stay in education. Your comment moving those rowdy kids into vocational and trades shows how incredibly out of touch you and many of today's counselors are. The "vocational" or career and technical education (CTE) courses are actually were the best and brightest often move. Today's CTE courses are often as or more rigorous than any academic course, and are more often tied to dual credit to a post-secondary program. These programs are NOT the "dumping ground" of old, but the place for those students who know for what career they wish to prepare. CTE courses are the true future of education. if you have heard of "hands on learning" or "project based learning", these began and were perfected in CTE programs.
02:19 AM on 04/15/2013
Sounds like these real duds you say don't deserve a shot a voc ed should just be filtered to the ditch digging jobs by 16 or 17.  Sometimes I conclude that there are so many lazy American teenagers (compared to decades ago) that most of them should do some hard labor for a while (at least a week or two) so it can show them what they face if they keep slacking off.  All societies have slackers and duds, the most advanced ones know what to do with them the quickest...or how about retired Dril Seargents helping Teachers as aides keeping these type under control?  Modern education needs a wake up call, too many new theories that did not do jack crap compared to the 60's and 70's most efficient ed ever.
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02:34 PM on 04/14/2013
As a father of two elementary school students, from my limited point of view I would offer the following:

- Stop having a schedule based on an agrarian societies' priorities. My kids don't need to be up at dawn to feed animals, back during daylight to do chores on the land, off for most of the summer to help with the family farm. Be more compatible with the dual-income-family schedules that are so prevalent: 8:30am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, 12 months a year.
- Split the difference between standardized testing yadda yadda and more individualized instruction: make the mornings all the rote memorization and then the afternoons for allowing the skills of the teachers to actually shine through.
- Bring back and fully fund arts, sciences, music and sports.
- Fund the staffing necessary for proper class sizes so that a teacher has a half a chance to rein in a classroom, rather than foisting 25+ kids of varying backgrounds and maturity levels on them.
- Along with standardized tests, have standardized parent / guardian involvement in the teaching, development and behavior of the kids.
- Stop littering the school calendar with seemingly random "teacher workshop" days and a week-long break seemingly every month.

All of the above takes a lot more funding than is currently routed to education. We could find some of that funding by, say, not providing massive tax breaks for multinational corporations that beg for work visas and offshoring...
05:04 PM on 04/14/2013
You do know that the Summer breaks and holidays your kids get off the teachers don't? More often than not teachers have no down time at all, and the 'holidays' are the time they get ready for the next year, or prepare for the next three months of curriculum they teach. They don't quit working at 3:45 when school lets out. And they shouldn't be babysitters for you, so why should the school change it's schedule to watch over your kids while you are work? I have never seen a teacher who got to work later than 8 AM because they had to prepare for the day, and I have never heard of one leaving as soon as school was out. And chances are, if they did they went home to continue grading papers/reading likely plagiarized essays/book reports. But please, keep thinking that the school breaks are for the teachers to take time off, and that they should watch your kids for you while you are at work.
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01:04 AM on 04/17/2013
I said absolutely nothing of what you are implying here. Of course teachers are not slackers or babysitters. 
07:10 PM on 04/14/2013
A thoughtful message - some points teachers agree with, can't get the funding to get fixed,,.and it gets worse every year. Class size - big problem. No money.
Involvement for parents, it exists, attend open house, curriculum night, parent teacher conference, field trips, classroom volunteer, PTA, run for school board, literacy committee. The options are endless. The timing of school, months etc.. this varies wherever you live, year round schooling an option, via school of choice. Kids need a break from school,.they do - whether it is traditional summer or a year round calendar, weeks off, just different. A school-day wears kids out, they need to eat at intervals during the day,.a 6pm school-day..not for kids under 8th grade. They need to go home and eat, veg out a bit and call it a day. It sounds like childcare might be the issue you are facing. The learning concepts you mention - not remotely how school works. Too complex to describe. Days off..teachers need to stay on top of things to teach and collaborate, learn from each other. Therein is a community of rich ideas, helpful support and openness to work smarter the best ways possible. Teachers are already at school 8-9 hours,.all planning can't be done at 4-7pm,.while their families have pizza without them. WE need to be paid better, smaller classes, and the ability to have a life while being a teacher. Where and when will the money come?
02:15 PM on 04/14/2013
They have to listen to a long list of politicians who belittle their ability, blame them for every student whose grades do not reach arbitrary standards, and want to take away every fringe benefit they have -- everything from the possibility of achieving tenure to receiving a decent pension.

Pensions will soon become a thing of the past, replaced by 401K and investment plans tied to the market. Working people will suffer diminished medical and health benefits. Social security benefits will be affected in a negative way. Those with the most and politicians will pretentiously and erroneously claim to champion the cause of the poor and middle class, while they bask in wealth and opulence. You're only scratching the surface of what is to come, and none of it is good. Prepare yourself.
flyfishing, education, grandkids
02:11 PM on 04/14/2013
As an administrator who also teaches, I am constantly counseling teachers that when they send students to the office all the time they are actually teaching students that the teacher does not have to be listened to. Yes, every adolescent will quickly learn that lesson well. I work with teachers to develop skills that will benefit them in their own classrooms because one thing is certain, when a student is removed from class he cannot learn the material being covered. Sending a student to the office should be the last thing a teacher does. Do some administrators shirk their responsibilities and look for ways to make their schools look better on paper? Probably. But to blame discipline issues across America on administrators is ridiculous generalizing.

Personally, I have been in this career for over 20 years and have not regretted it ever. I have looked forward to going to work every single day of the last two decades. Yes, we face incredible challenges as a profession. Okay. Don't most professions? Why should education be different in that regard? But I still counsel graduating seniors who are considering becoming a teacher to go for it. I have found it to be incredibly rewarding. And I still do.

BTW. I didn't start teaching until I was 35, so I have been around in the "real world" enough to speak with some experience.
Ignoratio Elenchi
I don't want to live on this planet any more
03:44 PM on 04/14/2013
My mother was a teacher in Ohio for 31 years, and for the last ten years, the inmates were running the asylum. Walk into the classroom and throw a soda bottle at the teacher? Ah, it's not your fault, it's the teacher's for not having better classroom management skills. Now here's some chocolate. If you would like some more Hershey's later, well, just throw something else.

Removing those kinds of students is the *only* way for everyone else to learn.
03:49 PM on 04/14/2013
These are the opinions of every lazy or fearful administrator I've ever known. Luckily I've had great administrators too, so I know the difference. The good ones give the teacher some options to manage misbehavior, such as before or after school detentions or required parent conferences that don't need to be approved by an administrator. The good ones have dropped by my class often enough to know that I'm running my classroom well - and if I'm not, they've offered specific help and checked to see that I'm following through. The good ones realize that sometimes, one student taken out of the classroom means that 29 others can learn. The good ones learn behavior management principles so that no student gets sent to the office "all the time." Effective discipline means that a student sent to the office once will not need to be sent again. The best administrator I ever knew said, at the beginning of each school year, "My job is to make sure you can do your job." Students knew that teachers were supported, that no one's misbehavior would be allowed to deprive others of learning time, and that discipline would be swift and sufficient to discourage repeated offense. As a result, we had no behavior problems. Students were engaged in learning, classrooms were happy and productive places, everyone had fun and no one went too far. We had many teachers applying for jobs and many students asking to transfer to our school.
Immune to Romnesia & Romonomics
02:10 PM on 04/14/2013
The GOP plan is to destroy every institution associated with government in order to claim the system is broken and can only be saved through privatization.
02:05 PM on 04/14/2013
This article is a step in the right direction but it doesn't go far enough. The bottom line is that the problem with education is not the schools, per se, or the teachers there. The problem isn't institutional, it's social. Children receive a million little messages that school isn't something our society genuinely respects and they don't have to take it seriously. Compare America to Asian societies. Children there are made every clear that school is absolutely important. No policy making, regulating, mandating - nothing will improve our schools until we recognize and admit that the problem lies in all the households throughout America and not at its school. I would add that the same could be said about gun violence in America as well.
01:58 PM on 04/14/2013
This has been going on for a long time. My question is - Did any of these young teachers bother to read a newspaper while they were growing up?
Ignoratio Elenchi
I don't want to live on this planet any more
03:47 PM on 04/14/2013
Hollywood showed them that the determined individual can triumph over the adversity of dozens of kids. No one ever made a movie about the brilliant teacher whose students failed anyway...
06:05 PM on 04/14/2013
As a young teacher in training, I can tell you at least that I did. In fact, my generation was one of the first where standardized testing determined a pass/fail. I can also tell you that we read the papers and became more determined. Everybody giving up on teaching entirely is not going to help this issue. We need all teachers to stand up and demand better treatment. Unless the problem is addressed, nothing will change.