As you probably know, I'm a teacher in a public school. How this election goes down tomorrow could have a huge impact on my life. If certain people are elected or certain proposition pass or fail, I could potentially lose my job. When I vote, I'm not thinking about how much I'm going to have to pay in taxes each year or if I get to smoke weed legally. I'm thinking about keeping my job. I'm thinking about the students who will lose their teachers. I'm thinking about who will control our schools.
I'm the first to admit that our school system is far from perfect. The teacher's union is far too strong and as a result, some teachers who simply aren't doing a good job are able to keep teaching for years and years. On the other hand, there is no simple answer here. Charter schools seem like a great option and as the movie Waiting for Superman and candidate for governor Meg Whitman will tell you, they are the answer to our problems. However, charter schools have their fair share of flaws.
Let me tell you a little story about my friend Maggie*. Maggie was hired the same year I was. She taught in the same department as I did and was clearly one of the best teachers at our school. She got the, otherwise apathetic, students to love reading and writing through her creative use of technology (and blogs!). At the end of our second year of teaching, we both received RIF notices (or pink slips). While I was busy planning my wedding, she was busy getting hired at one of the largest and most successful charter schools in our neck of the woods (if not the whole country). When our RIFs got rescinded the week before the end of the school year, I was ecstatic to be able to stay at my school and not be unemployed. She decided that she didn't want to burn the bridge she had just spent 3 months building at the charter school, so she left. Throughout the next school year, she taught with the same creativity and enthusiasm she always did, but she also stepped on a few toes with her out-of-the-box thinking. Apparently she stepped on the wrong toes because she was let go after that first year. Since she had left the district, she couldn't return. Now she is at another charter school (probably happy and changing lives), but still at risk of being fired just because someone doesn't like her.
The point is not that the teachers union should be destroyed and that all schools should go charter. The key is the attitude our society has toward teachers. Most people, including some people who I am very close to, do not respect the teaching profession. I can understand why. It doesn't pay much, it doesn't require very much schooling, the benefits are great... we must all be lazy, right? I think that in order for the problems in education to begin to be fixed, teachers need to be as respected as doctors and lawyers. I also think that being a teacher should require as much (if not more) schooling as being a doctor or lawyer AND in exchange for all the education (in addition to a much more competitive hiring process), teachers should be paid like doctors and lawyers. If teachers were paid more (and I mean way more), were required more schooling and training, and were put into competitive hiring situations, we would get some pretty amazing people as teachers. The best of the best would flock to the profession, right?
I know that the votes I cast tomorrow will not make all of this happen, but I know that electing people who think charter schools are the answer to all of our problems in education (*cough* Meg Whitman *cough*) will only make things worse.
Please let me know what you think! While I'm passionate, I'm not closed-minded. I'd love to hear your opinions!
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.