Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's One of Those Weeks

Why the hell do we, NYC public school teachers, have to bribe our students to get them to do what they're supposed to be doing? How big do the bribes have to be? And ultimately, shouldn't we realize that the bribes don't matter because if our students don't value what an education can do for them, then it doesn't matter how much we pay/offer them: they won't put their heart into it.

So, why do I ask such a depressing question that probably doesn't offer any answers, just more questions?

It's been one of those weeks where I've been wondering if I have the stamina and mental endurance to make it in this profession. I suppose I do, but maybe not teaching over-age, under-credited students. I can literally feel the black turning to gray in my hair during the school day. And I'm not exactly in a hurry to look like John Slattery, regardless of how cool he is on Mad Men.

I accept that some of my students face harsh realities: no parental involvement, broken homes, no homes, teen pregnancies, the list goes on. Not all of them have this, but some do. The problem is, these realities have reordered their priorities and for most, it has taken away their ability to see that what they're neglecting right now is their only way out. And if they can't see the benefit of going through the system, will they truly be able to convince their children to stay in school? Just thinking about this gives me a headache.

These kids. Our schools. They're fucked unless we get some radical change. And pushing to get rid of teacher unions or threatening to lay off teachers is hardly radical. It's fucking stupid. Talk about missing the point (and the problem).

4 comments:

Ahsan said...

I do not get how the issue gets fuddled. The problem with collective bargaining is justifiable IMO.

The current pushback against labor-union power stems from the collision between overly generous benefits for public employees, pensions health care etc, in lieu of fiscal crises of state and local governments. Teachers and other public-employee unions convinced weak state govt.'s to agree to burdensome obligations, such asbenefit pension plans, that created excessive taxpayer burden. Fundamentally changing the situation requires a change in structure, by restricting collective bargaining for public employees, and introducing right to work laws etc.

The social situation of students has absolutely nothing to do with collective bargaining and/or teachers unions. Improving teaching, teaching methods, policies cannot change the way education is observed and consumed. What it can change is the way teachers view their jobs.

The same manner students can be incentivized to study (albeit a slippery slope), should be adopted for teachers. Incentivizing is critical to American culture because, apparently without it, people just dont do their jobs. As for your conundrum, there is only so much you can do to help them; you cannot present a condom while they're exercising their carnal urges; neither can you stop them from picking a gun. All you can do is educated them about an alternative lifestyle to your best ability and hope they choose.

I guess another question could be how to align incentive systems between teachers and students in educating the specific youth demographic you teach.

Rahil said...

so what I hear you saying is that you really should be in the policy space?

Anonymous said...

Ahsan, I am quite sure that the generous "benefits" gained by public employees PALES in comparison to the tax breaks enjoyed by the rich.

And Mista, you're not alone. You see all the gray hair on my head! However, you ARE making a difference. Celebrate your small victories and don't get bogged down by the difficulties.

Yo Mista said...

@ Ahsan-
You put it perfectly:

"The social situation of students has absolutely nothing to do with collective bargaining and/or teachers unions. Improving teaching, teaching methods, policies cannot change the way education is observed and consumed. What it can change is the way teachers view their jobs."

Unfortunately, our political system has used the social situation and subpar performance of our students as a weapon against teacher unions. People forget, the unions' job is to protect teachers, NOT increase student motivation to come to school. Comparing the two is simply stupid.

@ Rahil-
No way. I'm not good at compromising.

@ Anonymous-
Thanks buddy. I guess this was one of those days where I didn't have enough small victories to overlook the giant mess.