Three cheers for actor Matt Damon!
You know, Matt and I have a lot in common.
Both our mothers are retired school teachers.
Both of us went to school in Cambridge, Mass.
And both of us are devilishly good looking!
But seriously, both of us know that the answer to bad teaching is not job insecurity.
You go, Matt! While you're watching the video, I'm going to be "assessing" papers from other people's classes according to a "grading rubric" in which I must judge each paper on 1) Responsiveness to instructions, 2) Use of terms and concepts, 3) Organization, 4) Integration of different sources, 5) Using appropriate reference and citation, and 6) Conclusion. This is the type of shit teachers do during their so-called "vacation" time.
I don't mention this to complain. I mention this to say that if you want me to teach well, let me teach. But pile on administrative B.S.? Give teachers make-work hoops to jump through? Take away time that could spend researching, writing, preparing for class, and grading papers? Analyze, assess, and prod me one too many times... and you'll get what what pay for. But no more.
I didn't go into this racket for the money. But without tenure, I never would have gone into teaching. Given my education, I could have made much more money as a consultant or investment banker or even a professor at a private university. But don't we want more overqualified teachers at public schools? Besides, I like my job.
Some want teachers to exchange job security for "incentive-based" pay. Well I don't know how you would "incentivise" me in my senior seminar. Some say pay should be based on student evaluations. Not a good idea. Granted I'd do OK because I get very good student evaluations. But it's still a bad idea. I do believe that bad evaluations are a sign of a bad teacher, I'm not so certain about the opposite. I like to think I get good student evaluations because I'm a good teacher. But I could also get good evaluations simply by being easy.
Pay me a fair wage (I make $74,000 a year in case you were wondering) and give me job security and enough time off, and I'll put my heart into the job. Make teaching a game--especially a game refereed by administrators and other non-teachers--and I'll play it like a game. Oh yes, I'd win that game! But my students wouldn't.
Trying to weed out bad teachers is like trying to weed out corruption. It's a noble goal and needs to be done, but you have to make sure the cure isn't worse than the disease. When you place rules and regulations on everybody in order to catch a few, you make things worse for everybody.
Teacher unions aren't perfect. But for teachers and students alike, they're more good than bad. They're also fighting on the front line against those who want to destroy unions and public education on ideological grounds.
Bad teachers need to be let go before they get tenure. And that would be easier if more good teachers were attracted to the profession. And that would be easier if there were not such teacher burnout, especially in schools most in need. Making the job less appealing is not the answer.
Matt Damon is right: Job insecurity would not make me work harder and MBA-style thinking is not the answer. A teacher wants to teach.