No. 376

A teacher in Kansas sent me something in the mail the other day titled, A 21st Century Teacher Applicant that contained a lot of food for thought. Apart from the reasons most of the so-called experts give, have you ever wondered why we have such a shortage of good teachers in our country? As you read this, I believe you will have some additional insights. It begins, Let me see if I have this right. You want me to go into that room with all those kids and fill their every waking moment with a love for learning.
Not only that, Im supposed to instill a sense of pride in their ethnicity, behaviorally modify disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse and T-shirt messages. I am to fight the war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, check their backpacks for guns and raise their self-esteem. Im to teach them patriotism, good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, how and where to register to vote, how to balance a checkbook and how to apply for a job.
I am to check their heads occasionally for lice, maintain a safe environment, recognize signs of potential antisocial behavior, offer advice, write letters of recommendation for student employment and scholarships, encourage respect for cultural diversity of others, and, oh yeah, always make sure that I give the girls in my class 50% of my attention. Im required by my contract to be working on my own time during the summer and evenings at my own expense toward advance certification and a masters degree; and after school, I am to attend committee and faculty meetings and participate in staff development training to maintain my employment status.
I am to be a paragon of virtue larger than life, such that my very presence will awe my students into being obedient and respectful of authority. I am to pledge allegiance to supporting family values, a return to the basics, and to my current administration. I am to incorporate technology into the learning, and monitor all Web sites while providing a personal relationship with each student. I am to decide who might be potentially dangerous and/or liable to commit crimes in school or who is possibly being abused, and I can be sent to jail for not mentioning these suspicions.
I am to make sure all students pass the state and federally mandated testing and all classes whether or not they attend school on a regular basis or complete any of the work assigned. Plus, I am expected to make sure that all of the students with handicaps are guaranteed a free and equal education, regardless of their mental or physical handicap. I am to communicate frequently with each students parent by letter, phone, newsletter and grade card.
I am to do all of this with just a piece of chalk, a computer, a few books, a bulletin board, a 45 minute more-or-less plan time and a big smile, all on a starting salary that qualifies my family for food stamps in many states. Is that all? And you want me to do all this and expect me NOT TO PRAY? If you are a teacher, you may have seen this before, but if not, it should give you some insights into what many of our nations teachers face each day they are on the job.
Since I am not a school teacher, I dont have a true understanding of what these people go through, and while this may be an over dramatization, they do face challenges unlike most of the rest of us in our jobs and careers. From my perspective, the reason this is true is because of the breakdown of the basic family unit in our society. As the result, our schools and our nations teachers are expected to fill in the gaps, while facing the threat of violence every day they teach. A part of the solution is to honor them and pay them more. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)