Teachers: Suck It

A great post from Edwize's Ron Isaac:
The Teaching Profession As Phoenix

Imagine that you have been a successful practicing pediatrician for many years and have retained your original idealism and smarts over all that time. You’re a great diagnostician with a “bedside manner” to match. You’ve sharpened your skills, deployed your intuition, kept up to speed on research and treatments, dog-eared your much-consulted Physicians’ Desk Reference, tapped the fruits of your experience, balanced empathy with detachment and volunteered pro bono to heal indigent patients who lack the means to fund the biannual new Lexus your peers expect you to drive. There have been no complaints and two generations of community residents swear by you.

Enter the inquisitors.

A pair of uninvited strangers possessing clipboards but not necessarily any scientific background, opens the door to your examination room while you’re pacifying a non-compliant infant. These visitors are there to check you out. It’s not unheard-of but rare that they introduce themselves. They take notes as you swab the babe’s cheek. At some point they leave. There’s something vaguely inconclusive and unsettling about their departure. You know you’ll hear from them again soon and you sense you’d rather not.

Days later you receive a letter containing some heavy evidence of your inadequacy:

1. The wallpaper in your examination room was not sufficiently picturesque, lacking the regulation blue/red/green balloon motif.
2. Your jar of tongue-depressors was not in its designated corner.
3. You violated Doctors College dictum by saying “Ah” when you should have said “Oh” upon discovering a rash.

This scenario is of course silly and unreal. It could never happen to doctors because they have reasonable autonomy in setting the conditions and direction of their livelihood. There’s is a profession not in name only. They are the acknowledged experts in their field and they police themselves. That’s also true of civil engineers. They design bridges and judge their structural integrity. Nobody would expert bakers to replace, much less supervise them.

Education is, alas, different, especially in this era of mal-reform. Teachers have relatively little control over their lives in the classroom, despite their impressive credentials. Despite this, most teachers have a “professional attitude” on the job, but that’s not the same as equating their job with a profession. One can have a “professional attitude” in one’s approach to stir-frying vegetables at a restaurant.

When the new breed of school managers and the think-tank pundits who love them say, “Act like a professional,” what they usually mean is that a teacher should abrogate their contractual right, such as due process, or a work rule, such as a duty-free lunch period. If they balk at being an “at-will employee,” it means they’re “unprofessional.” At least according to some (though not all) the twenty-somethings from the Leadership Infirmary.

Teachers are, on the whole, as diligent, creative, energetic and unselfish as any group of workers anywhere. But all of society would be better off if they were in overwhelming charge of the educational establishment on every level. Then the teaching profession would be born again.

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