Being the son of a teacher and being engaged to a teacher, I have to laugh whenever people say any one of a number of the cliche things about those who teach. I've had the close up seat for 25 years of educational battles and nine times out of ten, the teachers lose. In my mom's district they can't strike thanks to state law. If the teachers need to get something changed they have to sue (like my mom and her fellow teachers did to force the district to remove the mold from the school)
There are plenty of bad teachers in the system and plenty of good ones and the way the system is setup now (between the administration, budget cuts, disruptive and lazy students) it kills more good teachers than people can imagine. Last time I checked, the average career expectancy for a new teacher is about the same as an NFL running back - 3 years.
They all hit the class room with an expectation that they're going to make a difference; they're going to reach the kids people say are unreachable only to be ground down by an overwhelming wall of apathy and outright hostility. After a few years of that, they either quit, quietly slog on - trying to hold their head high and keep some small part of their ideals intact, or they give up and completely disconnect. Despite what anyone may think, it is not easy to stand day after day at the front of a classroom trying to engage, educate and control 30-40 hormonally driven and caffeinated squirrelly kids who'd rather be on the internet or the Xbox.
And while efforts like NCLB are an attempt to hold teachers accountable (and talk to any dedicated teacher about the stifling effect of that law on the classroom and innovative techniques and the ruinous idea of treating kids like a corporate widget to be stamped against a set mold), there's nothing out there that addresses the most important part of the equation - the developmental years between 0 and 5. Appropriate stimulation (and Baby Einstein videos don't count) and engagement during those first years mean more developmentally than any educational efforts down the road. Without that foundation, you could deploy an endless army of Ron Clark's
and make little headway in engagement.
Yes, this is a subject near and dear to my heart. I loved school. (Whatcha expect from a nerd?) I had some top notch teachers at my little "podunk" public school of 2500 (when I was there.. its closer to 6000 now). Yes, there were bad teachers there and I was a smart ass who made their lives "fun", but by and large I made it out with a ton of knowledge. I've seriously considered becoming a teacher because I love educating and getting ideas across, but there's just no way I can justify the grind (my fiancee works longer hours than I do), the heartache and low pay and I don't think I have the internal fortitude to make it through the disappointment.