Saturday, March 5, 2011

An essay worth reading; the state of American education

A little while ago I read a timely, topical blog post worth reading: I don't want to try to explain the post, I just want you to read it.

Thanks to for posting the link to this essay. But in the meantime, I left this as part of my comments at the blog post I've linked above:

"This morning an editorial in my local paper (bemoaning the concept of tenure and last-hired, first-fired) made a comment about new young teachers having the energy, commitment, and training evidently (at least in the opinion of this editor) not found in those of us who've been teaching a long time (in my case, 34 years). Evidently the editor has never driven by my school at 6 or 7pm and seen the empty parking lot, except for my car and the custodian's car. Evidently the editor hasn't seen my elementary art room piled to the ceiling with recycled cardboard sculptures, papier-mache flying pigs, shredded paper clay hunks that look like hunks of cave wall, stacks of paintings, and so much more - and, oh - also hasn't spoken to the kids who choose to eat lunch in my room, who stay after school to scrub the sinks, who bring me the last and most special cupcake (no wonder I'm not so skinny any more) who tell me that art is their best time of the day. He hasn't seen me standing on a table trying to hang something from a ceiling, dragging in bags full of stuff for a crazy still life, shopping in the dollar store for toothpaste so I can use it for a crazy batik lesson, and blogging my evenings away with other art teachers when I finally get home to my husband. He says the young teachers have more ENERGY? Then why are they leaving school at 3:00pm? He says they are better TRAINED? Then I guess the experience gained from 34 years spent with kids with every problem and peculiarity imaginable is less valuable than a grad class where you learned the latest lingo? Don't get me wrong - I don't dislike the new young crop of teachers or discredit their education - as a matter of fact I give them massive kudos for choosing a profession that seems to be on everyone's "hit list" these days. But I too went through an era of job cuts and having to start over, and it doesn't mean that I should therefore be the first to go because I am a seasoned veteran and cost a little more to keep around."

I am very worried about what's going on in our country regarding the future of education, worker rights, and collective bargaining. It seems an evil wind is blowing from state to state, and if we close our eyes we will be too late to protect ourselves from it. If my child were planning to be a teacher I'd advise against it right now. The late and great education/union activist Al Shanker must be turning over in his grave at what's happening in our country.


  1. I couldn't agree more! I used want my children to teach, but no more...I too am WORRIED. I am in NY also, Westchester, teaching art 25 years. I work with a teacher who is celebrating her 40th! She is one of the very best: the most dedicated, committed teacher I know. YOUR KIDS ARE LUCKY TO HAVE YOU!

  2. I teach Art in WI. Scary place to be right now:(

  3. Yep... couldn't agree more with you! I've been teaching for 13 years and learn a little more every year. I had alot of energy as a young teacher but NOT alot of experience! I've learned a lot from veteren teachers! It's a shame what is going on. Each year, we have to defend our jobs, our profession, our departments!

  4. I took a little break from typing up my requisitions to follow up on some blogs and I'm happy to have come across this post!

    As you know I've been posting a lot lately about art advocacy and what's been going on in Wisconsin, it's a shame to see such little respect for teachers : (. I'm only in my third year and know I have a sooooo much more to learn.

    I finally did get to watch "Waiting for Superman", too last night, and I like how George Canada even admits that it took him years before he considered himself a "master teacher."

    Are we crazy, or is it absurd that not only do we have to defend ourselves as teachers (you know, the guys that are helping out the future of America?) but also as ART teachers?! (you know, the department that instills creative thinking, problem solving, cultural appreciation, etc.)?!?

  5. These blanket statements are wrong. Young does not equal energy. fresh out of college does not equal better trained. There are so many nuances in teaching and being a great teacher. I don't like it when people say younger is better, more experienced is better, how about better is better. People who try to better themself everyday, no excuses, should get the respect they deserve. People like you and I'm going to say it me! Representing both groups we definitely deserve the benefit of more informed statements. When you devote yourself to education and everyone's children I think we can expect a little more respect then these blanket statements.

  6. Thanks Erica, I couldn't have said it better, and after re-reading my post, I wonder if I was also making a blanket statement. If my tirade put down the younger teachers, it wasn't intended. What I was trying to say is really what you put so well. Sigh.

    Today I got an email from my first student teacher, who has been teaching now 1/2 dozen years or so in a nearby district, and her job has been cut to a .2 position for next year. My heart breaks for her as well as for the veteran under attack. I know how devoted she is to her job, and how just plain GOOD she is at it.

  7. I know you have so much respect for the profession and all the artist/teachers no matter what their stage. That goes without saying! I never thought you were putting down younger teachers just sticking up for yourself which you should! I get so annoyed with the skepticism that the many show towards teachers. We are working for the same goal what's best for YOUR kids. You'd think there was some sort of hidden agenda. I know there are a few spoilers but most are trying hard to raise everyone's kids and their own.

    I'm so sad for your student teacher and also the veteran teachers. We shouldn't have this problem of having to choose, we are already understaffed and cutting art programs too much as it is. I hope Stella can go to our public school because I love the teachers but if they cut the arts any more . . . that's five years away:) Thankfully the economy has time to rebound. Many of our teachers are great but state mandates are many.

  8. The state of education in general isn't too good and that of art education may be worse. So sad that there won't be experienced teachers to mentor and support those coming into the profession if state government has its way. Who is going to teach our children how to think creatively? Yes, my energy level isn't what it used to be after 33 years of teaching. I'd gladly give up a days pay to see someone like this editor come in to my school and not only teach but plan, prepare materials, hang work, counsel several children, mitigate arguments, look in several dozen mouths where teeth used to be, find a few bandaids, tie shoes, research material for new lessons, contact parents about a few students not participating or putting forth effort, or.... (fill in the blank here) and then try to fit in a trip to the restroom and a bite of lunch somewhere in the day. Sorry to rant and vent but this is an issue that gets my goat.

  9. Dale, no need to apologize! I love a good rant myself, and everything you said is spot-on. And there's plenty you left out - washing a pile of paintbrushes, cutting paper to size, GRADING (ugh) and eating those cupcakes the kids bring you...