Last month, an issue of TIME magazine hit newsstands with the grabby cover headline "Rotten Apples." The article looks at Silicon Valley's controversial involvement in bringing down teacher tenure in California—another in the pile of articles written about privatizing funds for public schools, encouraging the growth of charters, and instituting proposed fixes for America's broken school system that require not only budget cuts in high-risk communities but private financing elsewhere.
Reading these articles gets you lots of quotes from think-tank policymakers, lobbyists, union leaders, and politicians. And only a few from those leading the public schools themselves: actual teachers, administrators, and aides.
Since the TIME story was published, over 100,000 teachers have signed a petition to ask the magazine to apologize for the misleading nature of the story and cover, suggesting that it paints issues in education reform in a needlessly aggressive and calculating manner by putting teachers on trial instead of the system. (For the uninformed, the story's focus, Silicon Valley engineer David Welch, suggests a supposedly easy fix: get rid of all the "ineffective teachers" and—voilà!—the system's fixed. As the story's author notes, "Many [teachers] argued that policies focusing on cold, statistical measures fail to take into account the messy, chaotic reality of teaching in communities where kids must contend with poverty and violence.")
As one teacher at a United Federation of Teachers rally said at the end of October, "We didn't become teachers to become millionaires. We became teachers because we believe in the American dream and that all children deserve a quality education. We are all good apples here. We work very hard and deserve better."
According to the National Education Association, the national average teacher starting salary for 2012-13 was $36,141. Given the high demands of the job, the constant pressure to meet state test scores requirements, the changing protocols, the union negotiations, the long, long hours, the never-ending debates over the Common Core, and the push against an often static bureaucracy, that salary number seems way too low. It is, frankly, insulting.
We'd like to hear from our readers working in public schools about their lives and work. Tell us about your successes with students or otherwise, tell us about your failures, tell us what you think could help in making your jobs easier or more rewarding or more respected, what could make your metrics fairer, your lives less dependent on a Scantron and a Ticonderoga No. 2. Tell us anything that you think the average person doesn't know about your job, but should, down to the frustratingly mundane details.
We'll share your stories in a regular column (and anonymously, if you so choose). How can we fix America's schools? You—the teachers, aides, administrators—tell us.
All stories can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or left in the comments section below.
[Image by Jim Cooke, photo via Shutterstock]