No Teacher Left Behind

Today was one of those days that make you think God wasn’t talking into your good ear when you thought you heard your calling.

Education is a troubled issue in America today.  No Child Left Behind will be critiqued and criticized and amended for years to come, but that is utterly ignoring the real underlying issues at work in our nation’s educational systems.

One, there is very little respect for teachers, both inside and outside of the classroom.  In the world without, teaching is a regarded as a fall-back job, something to do if engineering or computer programming gets too difficult.  Except in economically depreciated parts of the country, teachers are paid far below the importance and responsibility with which they are supposedly charged – namely, the future of children’s souls.  Gone is the respect for people who go into a life of service through teaching the community; now, the main highlights in the charitable world are million-dollar donations from our country’s super-rich.  If I stay in education for the rest of my life, I will be forever explaining my job choice to family members, my wife, my children, and my high-school teachers who had “expected so much more” from a promising student.

The respect within the classroom is just as corrosive.  Within America’s classrooms, teachers are degraded on a regular basis.  Be it from blatant disrespect, trifling paperwork, student disruptions, or apathy, a job they care for passionately is trashed daily.  Much of a teacher’s job comes at the end of the day, trashing the inevitable wads of paper and gum and hoping to regain some of their dignity and self-respect in the waste basket where their class left it.  A lack of support from school administration and outside resources means that teachers are encouraged to solve discipline behaviors internally; for students who fail to care about grades and field trips, this means ignoring sleepers, apathetic do-nothings, and casual disrupters.

Second, there is a pervading sense of both apathy and entitlement.  While they may at first appear dipolar opposites, they in fact stem from and result in the same phenomenon  of passivity.  Apathy, which is top on the list of most teachers’ prime enemies, infects everything from intro-level math classes to pre-AP classes.  Students who cease to care for their own education and, by proxy, their futures, are extremely difficult to motivate or reprimand.

The concept of entitlement, too, is a pervasive issue in our nation’s classroom.  Special education students demand their rights, students bellow that they are entitled to be marked present even if they skip half a class.  The sense of entitlement knows no single class or group; AP students feel entitled to acceptance at a good university and high honor roll grades, while some Special Education students will cry out whenever a modification means they can study less for a test.  Entitlement begins to rob the joy in teaching when above-and-beyond field trips and clubs are taken for granted by students who expect adult attention at all times.

If we are to change the state of America’s education, we must also examine and seek to modify the moral state of our classrooms.  The lack of respect, the overwhelming sense of entitlement, and the pervasive apathy all hinder true education from occurring.  No child should be left behind, true, but teachers should not be left behind either.

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