So after I calmed myself from the range of emotions I felt at this conference I had to ask myself why these seemingly important people were so misinformed. I also wondered why all of the answers seemed to be relative to teachers instead of directed toward other stakeholders in education. Here's what I came up with:
Another reason those who aren't in the school buildings point to "bad teachers" is because we, as a profession, don't market ourselves well. Here's an example: over and over at this conference I heard references to Teach for America. Yes, there are amazing TFA teachers all over the country; I even work with one. TFA takes highly motivated college graduates, provides them with intense, condensed (five weeks) training, and places them in our neediest schools. And although the retention rates are nothing to brag about (TFA reports that retention is difficult to determine, but many articles report that TFA teachers leave after 2-3 years), the marketing that includes billboards, television commercials, and education journal advertising makes TFA look glamorous as well as successful.
So what are classroom teachers doing to market themselves? Well, just today I read this "status update" on a Facebook page - "Another long day at the pool. Being a teacher in the summer is hard work." Last week I read this one - "Summer - the reason I teach."
Although most teachers spend their entire summers "off" at trainings and planning with other teachers (I've seen half the staff at my school this week), those bragging about their leisurely summers are not getting any points with the policymakers who work all year. No wonder they don't want to raise teacher salaries.
In addition, the teacher "venting" that occurs in our communities most likely indicates to others that we are not committed to doing whatever it takes to teach our children. It probably sounds like we're only committed to whining about how difficult our jobs are.
So teachers, it is up to us to change the thinking of legislators, higher ed representatives, and policymakers. It is up to us to market ourselves as professionals who can make a difference in the lives of children, instead of "bad teachers" who are uncomfortable with technology.
The last session I attended at the conference included presenters who were working on a report outlining the qualities of a teacher leader. At the beginning of the presentation, the participants were given a handout listing the members of the committee working on the report. I immediately scanned the list to see how many teachers had been included. I wasn't surprised to see that there were none.
I guess they figured we were all at the pool...