Friday, August 16, 2013

Changes in North Carolina: What is happening to our profession?

I haven't been good about following the North Carolina educational changes this past year, partly because every time I hear something about the legislative changes I am so horrified that I assume it isn't true and I put my hands over my ears and hum loudly to myself. 

Lisa Sorg in Indy Weekly sums the changes up like this:
In education, lawmakers march toward privatizing schools: ending salary increases for many teachers with a master's degree; no longer requiring charter schools to hire licensed teachers; allowing students to use vouchers—taxpayer money—to attend private schools, including religious ones, while draining $90 million from public schools statewide.

This is what I'd been trying to pretend isn't happening.

Sorg's article goes on to profile one of my college classmates who is leaving the state because of these changes. He is quoted as saying, 

"The pay differential is a huge deal. For me, there would be no difference in pay between a master's and a bachelor's degree. [Lawmakers] are saying we want you to saddle yourself with debt, stick with it, and say you're noble for doing it.
So I started broadening my search. This is a good chance to get out of here and go where I would have a chance to make more. People in my situation—single, no kids, no deep roots to North Carolina—are looking to get out of the state. Some teachers can't or don't want to leave; they're not going to give up. But a fair share of them told me to get out of here while I can"

My family has talked about moving to North Carolina to escape the craziness of the DC area. We have family in Charlotte and it would be wonderful to raise Little Lipstick with her cousin. But now? I certainly do not want to move into a state that boldly says, "We do not believe in our public school teachers. We do not believe in the teaching profession, the craft of teaching, or the importance of having good teachers in the field".  I do not want to teach there and I certainly do not want my daughter to go to school there. 

I am always baffled by parent support in changes such as these. I want my daughter to have a teacher who has a masters. I want my daughter to have a teacher who loves her job, is dedicated to the field, feels like a professional and is treated that way by the school system and the state. Teachers who feel like professionals are more likely to take their jobs seriously and put in the hard work and extra hours it takes to do the job well. Disheartened, frustrated teachers who feel disrespected are far more likely to "work their contract" putting in minimal hours to get by and not taking the extra steps that really make a good teacher. It's true in any job. Treat people well, tell them you respect and trust them, that they are invaluable and that their hard work is worth something and they will work even harder for you. 

What's happening to our profession? Are we somehow moving towards un-professionalizing teaching, assuming that anyone who can turn a page in a teachers' manual can teach? How can we spend so much time discussing our broken education system only to decide that to fix it we should actually weaken the system and punish those who want to make it better? 

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