Education has and always will be a major topic of concern on both a state and federal level, as it should be. There is not a single person in this country who is not aware of the importance a strong and successful school system has upon the success of society. In the recent past, the blame has been shifted from parents to teachers; this has led to a push for "teacher evaluations," which, they claim, will hold teachers responsible for student performance and be able to distinguish and identify who is a good or bad teacher. As someone who has had a great amount of success with students and their performances, you would think I would embrace an evaluation system that would ultimately lead to a merit-pay system that would reward me, and other successful teachers, for my success in the classroom... but I don't. We can't fairly and accurately evaluate teachers without first evaluating the parents.
Besides the fact that the majority of experts have stated that it is impossible to fairly and accurately evaluate a teacher considering the many variables, experts also suggest that the results would be wrong half of the time. On the surface, it appears simple: If a student does well or improves, a teacher will score well on the evaluation. But, like communism, it appears to be perfect only on paper. When put into practice, it will never work. Students are not employees and, therefore, the business model doesn't apply to the school setting. We don't hire, nor can we fire, our students, and teachers do not treat their students like employees. The irony is we are required to differentiate lesson plans to put students with different learning styles in the best positions to excel in the classroom, which ultimately means that all students are different and, therefore, learn differently. Yet, teacher evaluations are founded on the assumption that all students are exactly the same.
So then, why would a state government or school district adopt and pay for an evaluation system that we know to be inaccurate more than it's accurate? Additionally, why would politicians, which includes my Governor Chris Christie, blame educators who play such a pivotal role in the lives of so many? I do take it personally when my colleagues are demonized by ignorant and egotistical politicians. I work with so many amazing teachers who, day in and day out, perform miracles without support, supplies and, in many cases, against some of the harshest and volatile home conditions. Why do politicians blame teachers and not parents then? It is simple: Politicians are politicians. They do not care about anything but reelection and votes and, in every state (including New Jersey), there are millions of parents and only thousands of educators. So, if you have to blame one group and risk losing their votes, you will pick educators. If you are under the impression that politicians are concerned more about your children than their own political future, you are being very naïve. Solely blaming teachers and not parents or guardians is like blaming the sun for nurturing a lemon, and not the lemon tree for producing a lemon or the lemon itself.
How foolish is it to blame the people who are forced to follow the policies and not the people who are making the policies when the policies prove unsuccessful? So many people assume they are experts on education because they have been to school. This would be like me assuming I am an expert in medicine because I have been to the doctor's office; it's absolutely absurd. Not even taking into consideration a student's economics, the beautiful thing about teaching, and one of the many things I love about my job, is that each student is so very unique. Each student is so very different from one another and, therefore, needs to be treated and guided in different ways.
The biggest myth about teachers is that all teachers do is teach; this couldn't be further from the truth. Every teacher in America (and I know for a fact that it is every teacher), in order to be a successful teacher, has to assume so many more roles than merely a teacher. Some students are dealing with so many unthinkable circumstances that, if the only thing I accomplish is to nurture and help heal their emotional wounds, my day was truly a success. Yet, this miracle of an accomplishment would not show up on any test scores and, based on evaluations, I would be deemed a bad teacher if their grades slightly declined. The sad reality is that all these policies that are being implemented across America are forcing teachers to focus solely on tests and test scores, and not the emotional make-up of the children, which is, without question, so much more important for the long term success of a human being.
With the recent strikes in Chicago, the media and politicians wasted no time pouring more blame onto teachers and even making them appear to be heartless and selfish. Again, this couldn't be more false. As teachers, we are not only educating the youth but, in some cases, we are playing significant roles in raising our students, especially when their own parents aren't capable, able to, or just do not want the responsibility of doing so. I have been blessed with an amazing family as well as amazing teachers, who only built upon the strong and secure emotional foundation my parents first established. But, if a student doesn't have that foundation or rebels against their parents (as most young adults do), it is the teachers who are there to assume the role.
I am not here to blame parents, nor am I here to suggest, as many politicians do, that teachers don't want to be held accountable for their students, I am merely stating the obvious and the truth: it is unfair and inaccurate to evaluate teachers without first evaluating parents and guardians. I have never heard a single teacher, privately or publicly, state that teachers should not be held accountable for a student's performance. That is a myth created by politicians and policymakers. We know we are accountable and responsible for our students; we know we have an incredible impact on the success or failure, and development of those students, and we know that, sometimes, the only support, encouragement, love and nurturing will come from our words and actions.
Of course, I would love to be paid more for my services since, like many of my colleagues, my salary is far below the efforts I perform on a daily basis. Like many teachers, I have thought long and hard about making a career change in order to allow myself to be more financially stable. But, like many, I choose to remain a teacher because it is the most significant and impactful job in any society. In my many years of teaching, I have come to many certainties, but one in particular: School boards only care about budgets; administrators only care about test scores; parents only care about their own children, but only the teachers care about every child.