Sunday, February 20, 2011

What The Heck Is Going On In Education

     This is an amazing time to be in education.  It is both a thrilling time, with where we are heading with technology and social media, and a scary time, with the threat of job losses due to budget problems in many state governments and our federal government.

     The headlines for the last 3 days have been filled with protests going on in Wisconsin as the governor has (in all appearances) decided to go after educators as he pushes to restrict collective bargaining with unions.  There's a lot more going on than that simple analysis but it feels as though the teaching profession is under attack when you hear the stories from that state and others.   I watched the live stream from Uptake.   I read a ton of blog posts and news articles such as this by Peggy Robertson in a guest post for Anthony Cody's Living In Dialogue blog,  this OpEd piece by Diane Ravitch for CNN, and this thoughtful post by Eric Sheninger in his blog A Principal's Reflections.

     Ironically, on Friday, I met with 2 University of Texas education majors who will be coming to work with my students next month and I told them how sorry I am that they are getting ready to graduate in the state of Texas where few, if any, job positions will be available this year or next year for people new to the profession.  I suggested that they look at international schools as an option.  Although I've been suggesting that to future teachers for years.  "Get out of this country and learn about teaching, yourself, and the world view of the U.S. of A."   Then, when you return, you will have experience, you will be more confident with your own sense of self, and you will appreciate this great country we live in.

     Now, even going the international route is getting sticky.  Certainly much of the Arab world is going to be crazy (at best) and down right dangerous (at worst) and keeps me from recommending those countries as potential places to teach.  In other parts of the world it is getting to where it's, sometimes, not a great idea to be an American.  We joked, half seriously, when we lived in Europe after 911 that we should tell people we were Canadian.

      So, if you come across someone with a dream of being a teacher, what will you say?  Will you be honest about the times they will be facing in the next few years?  Will you unconditionally recommend following those dreams knowing there might not be a job for them once they finish their training?  I know what I will do. 

     I will tell them that teaching is a profession that they must be passionate about.  That some days they will come home wanting to cry with frustration and other days to cry with joy.  That they will get hugs from kids they never knew could hug and they will get shunned by kids too cool to hug.  There will be parents that will hurt with their words or actions and then there will be a simple note of "Thank You" from a parent you've never even had an opportunity to meet.  And yes, there will be people who will label you as in-able to get a real job; only in the profession for the long summer vacations; or "just a teacher." 
      This is NOT an easy time to be coming into the profession.  But, I have met (both virtually and face to face) some incredible people who are striving to make our country's educational system the best in the world.  And, if we can make it through the tough times coming our way, teaching will, once again, be a profession where we can hold our head up high and say, "I'm a teacher!"