by Cara Schulz
It's the popular thing to do to show a reverence towards teachers. To laud them as over-worked, underpaid heroes who selflessly guide the next generation out of ignorance and mold them into productive, intelligent, and caring citizens. For the most part, that 's bullshit, as anyone who has ever attended a school knows.
Like any career field, there are a few good employees, a few bad ones, and whole bunch of mediocre ones. Teaching is no different. And like any other career field, people enter it because they believe they will enjoy doing it (or at least not hate it) and they figure the salary (which includes benefits) is ok.
Remembering my time as a student, and more recently as the parent of a student, most teachers aren't there turning your little angel into a brilliant scientist or the next great novelist. Or giving them a conscience or moral compass. That's not a knock against teachers, that's a knock on our expectations of what a teacher's job is. What most of them are doing is trying to get some basic knowledge down their throats while turning them into compliant drones fit for our wage slave society. That also isn't a knock against teachers, it's a knock against our education system.
The really good teachers manage to get that basic knowledge taught without destroying the kid in the process. The bad ones? They are the ones that crush your spirit and impress on you how much of a failure you are.
As a group, I don't laud teachers or show them automatic reverence. I don't think they are overworked compared to most every other white collar job out there in the USA. I would agree that the really great teachers should be paid more, but that means the crap ones should be paid less and the teachers themselves (via their unions) won't allow that so I'm not going to shed any tears over teacher pay. I also respect the hell out of those few who buck the system and do their job with excellence, but I feel that way about road construction crews and the person who takes my order at Taco Johns. Excellence is excellence.
We have unrealistic expectations of what a teacher does. We have romanticized it because we don't want to face what our education systems does - turns lower and middle class children into the perfect underclass, resigned to their fate and trained for mass productivity and passivity. We elevate the teacher to the status of a priest or some kind of hero so we can pretend that isn't happening. That's unfair to the teacher. Teachers and schools can only do so much. The rest is up to the child and the parents. Hell, most of the child's future is in the hands of the child and their parents.
Education is not a religion. The mythos we have is destructive. Teachers need to stop feeding the under-paid and overworked superhero/Mother Teresa narrative and we need to stop forcing it on them. We all need to look at what a mass education system can realistically do and what can be done for those students who have the desire to go farther. And by student, I mean all of us all through our lives, not just K-12.