Teaching: Should It Really Be Like Selling Christmas Trees?

I wrote this post for my own “well-being,” last month.  I didn’t intend to publish it, but I’m having a difficult time getting past this huge “TTWWADI,” as I think about cramming important professional development in the coming weeks.  Enjoy…

Exemplary teaching is the most important school-controlled factor pertaining to student success, and with summer here, I’m eager to dive into training my teachers on the most effective teaching strategies and techniques.  With the students gone for the summer, providing strong professional development is my top priority and I’m ready to get started.  But, I have one small problem.

They aren’t here.  Actually, neither am I.

Technically.

Teaching, learning, and leading, is apparently a part-time job.  And, to me, it says a lot about what we value.

As a society, we need to eventually come to terms with a clear reality:  Learning is not a nine month experience.  Further, efforts at becoming and maintaining master teacher status don’t fit into the number of months available on the calendar.  However, each summer, many districts essentially furlough teachers for nearly three months.  I wish I could “keep” them. 

And, of course, pay them what they deserve.  But, that’s the sticking point, isn’t it?

Essentially, teachers are seasonal employees, though we’re not selling Christmas trees; we’re preparing our next generation to lead in an increasingly competitive global economy.

I wouldn’t be having them paint the walls of empty halls, either.  Coupled with a redistribution of vacation time for students that shortened the traditional summer break, teachers would do things that we know works: analyze student data, design and refine common assessments, receive training in research-based strategies that we know work, and have the opportunity to receive on-the-job training.  You know, like in the corporate world.

Of course, with these legitimate and rich opportunities, comes increased accountability for performance.

Many teachers do work informally during the summer.  However, it is not imbedded in the professional day – which makes it unreliable and impossible for me to establish accountability.  In many ways, this “down-time” continues to feed the schism between exemplary teachers and those that are mediocre, or worse.  This becomes everybody’s problem, as grade-level teams struggle to stay in sync and the quality of instruction continues to fluctuate from room to room.

Most will likely say we can’t afford it; the money just isn’t there.  Yet, a month ago a television network signed a three billion dollar deal to broadcast college football games from a single conference.  Who is making such an enormous contract lucrative by feeding money into the broadcast machine?  Likely some of the same people and corporations who claim education is their top priority.  Talk about games; that’s talking a good one.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got an empty building to attend to.

 

Mike Lee

Mike Lee

Phoenix, Arizona

I am the Director of Outreach and Engagement for The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and certified as a Middle Childhood Generalist in 2004. In 2012, I received my doctorate in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University, however, I began my work in education serving as a para-educator in a special education program while still an undergraduate. My passions in the field include assessment and reporting strategies, the evolving role of technology, teacher leadership, and effective professional development that permanently impacts instruction. I consider myself a professional teacher first, as well as a professionally evolving lifelong learner, who is incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to impact the lives of children.

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