Sunday, September 27, 2015

Undervaluing Is Not a Way to Draw New Teachers

"They felt undervalued."  This simple sentence from the September 26, 2015 Argus Leader seems to sum up the reason why we are seeing more and more problems with maintaining quality teachers in this state.  Teacher's feel undervalued.  Their opinions seem to have little value, we don't want to pay them because "they only work for 9 months," and it is easier to blame them for failures of behavior, poverty, and the future of democracy.  We try to design tools that prove that they are failures after handicapping them and not even being sure if those measuring tools have any validity.  We have non-professionals that work very hard to tell teachers exactly what to do, without getting input from teachers.  

This feeling is not just in the South Dakota.  Last year the O.E.C.D. surveyed teachers from around the world and found roughly a third of the US teachers felt appreciated.  My thinking is that this number is actually a little lower in South Dakota.  Mr. Davidson of the O.E.C.D stated in the New York Times
If teachers felt undervalued, Mr. Davidson said at a media briefing, the best candidates would be less likely to enter the profession or stay in the job.
Cut back to the Argus Leader article and notice that Patrick Anderson actually talked to the people about why they left the field instead of relying on vague statistical figures.  

One such teacher was Rogene Brown who used to teach at Whittier Middle School.  Anderson sums up her reasoning as
There is no single reason why Brown left behind her job in the public schools, but she had problems with what she perceived as a changing philosophy in education and public perceptions of teachers. 
“And then you’re not getting paid what your worth,” Brown said. “No teachers are, no matter what they’re getting paid.” 
Another middle school teacher from Sioux Falls left teaching to drive truck for Harms Oil.  He explained the decision 
“I love teaching, working with kids and coaching,” Weinstein said. “I hate saying it, but at some point I got to take care of my own.”
Unfortunately, South Dakota has failed to take care of its own: teachers and students.   Lawmakers are more worried about the pressures of getting elected and making a few people happy instead of stepping up and being brave to do what is right and needed.  If the Blue Ribbon Panel wants to make any real change, then they can not limit themselves to make this minority of South Dakota happy just because they sit in Pierre.  Show that you value education and start fighting for it instead of hoping for crumbs.

I await Thursday and the next Blue Ribbon panel meeting.

PS. Patrick Anderson, I would recommend that you try talking to teachers to get their view on education by not holding coffee sessions during the times when many people (teachers included) have to work.  You are sort of limiting your pool of information.

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