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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Will No One Here Get Out Alive?

The NY Post carried a story entitled, "City teacher retirements drain $180M fund set aside for retroactive raises."  I'm not as surprised that the fund would be drained as I am surprised that anyone would be taken by surprise by the huge upsurge in teacher retirements.  Given that one has to work through 2020 in this era of educational deformity to gain one's full retro, I'm surprised that more teachers did not retire.

When I think about the teaching profession, increasingly I fear there will come a day when "no one here gets out alive."  The stress is so much greater today.  Teachers have become scapegoats for educational reformers.  First, Michelle Rhee blamed teachers for the persistence of U.S. poverty.  Now, there's social scientists, blaming teachers via VAM.  The five times a week, for forty minutes, in which we interact with some students, is supposed to outweigh the rest of their lives.  If students don't do well on high-stakes test, teachers must surely be the ones to get the boot.  Kiss retro goodbye, and, now, as if things are not already bad enough, maybe even the due-process rights of tenure.

Teachers currently live under conditions of greatly elevated stress.  There was always stress from teaching, particularly for persons new to the profession.  How could trying to help sometimes near 170 students academically and emotionally, each with his or her own issues, interests and concerns, every weekday not be the potential source for some stress?  And, I suppose this is why many people would like to criticize teachers for the easy life without ever actually considering working the job themselves.

Now, the stress outside the classroom far outweighs all that.  We are continually bashed by the media.  Facing micromanagement and an overabundance of observations, teachers are no longer treated as professionals.  No matter the years of fine service, they cannot be trusted.  Someone may pop in at any moment, pull out a pen and start furiously taking notes about every word spoken, as directed from above.  It is wholly unnatural.  It causes undue stress.  Stress often exhibits itself in physical ways.  Ironically, it seems to be the teachers who take their work most seriously who suffer the most.  They are perfectionists, overly self-critical and overly worried.  And, I am worried that teacher health issues will be on the rise.

So, will we all be around in 2020 to claim our retro?  You know as well as me.  It's a long way off.  Some will quit for greener pastures.  Some will gracefully retire rather than plow on through fields of stress.  Some will surely suffer at the hands of their students' test scores and future school closures.  And, yes, some of us will meet untimely deaths for one reason or another, but the stress sure as "heckers" doesn't help.  My advice:  develop a sense of humor about it all as fast as you can!

And, as far as our retro goes, we've been told by Mr. Mulgrew that it is not a God-given right.  If the money runs out, or the next contract is negotiated without it, who is to say that our pockets won't be turned inside out and empty?

Teacher attrition rates are already abnormally high in this era of educational deformity.  Who wouldn't want to get out alive, take the money and run, if possible?  Do you know the greatest shame of it all?  Experienced teachers are leaving in droves, teachers who love the classroom, but just can't stand the politicization of it.  It is no longer the profession for which many of us signed on ship.  After all, who really wants to be the instrument for inflicting test-based torture upon children?  Sad to say, but for many teachers given this age of educational deformity, retirement cannot come soon enough.  

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