2010-11-06 / Viewpoints

With Mr. Hess, I agree

ROBERT HOOFTALLEN, PUBLISHER

The opinion piece above written by Mr. Hess is one of about 100 I’ve read similar to it over the years.

The big difference is, he is so much better than any of the others. And here’s why.

Mr. Hess does not denounce the job, the actual teaching of our children because clearly it’s one of the most important jobs in every community everywhere.

Instead, he outlines what my generation of college students and graduates have known for two decades— that an alarming majority of high school students who go to college to be teachers are not the same students who make up the top tier of their class academically.

Why? Well, in my opinion there are many reasons, not the least of which being the fact that it’s a glorifi ed part-time job in terms of the number of days per year teachers must do what they are paid for.

Most honest teachers will tell you they teach for three reasons: June, July and August.

The fact that teachers are also pretty well compensated and are protected by one of the most powerful unions in the state doesn’t hurt matters.

Frankly, it has become one of those kinds of jobs that underachievers salivate over.

For the record, I am a big supporter of teachers — good ones. I have written similar pieces over the year in defense of them when the blanket assertion has been made that they make too much money.

I just don’t agree with that because good teachers earn every penny they are compensated.

But there’s the catch-- “good” teachers.

Because the reality is that it is not always the most educated or even the most intelligent person who ends up being the kind of employee an organization is happy to write a check to— no matter the profession.

But, that’s okay. I have been personally duped in interviews before and thought the candidate I chose was absolutely the right one for the job. On a number of occasions, I just plain blew it and on a couple others, I really blew it.

But the end result of those situations in the majority of circumstances is that the employee ultimately goes away and the institution gets the opportunity refocus and continue toward its goals with another employee.

All employers have had this happen to them and it hurts every time on a number of fronts, but it’s better than an environment that protects employees who deserve nothing more than a ticket to ride.

I’m afraid, though, that Mr. Hess and myself write in vain.

Because as he points out, teachers are virtually impossible to fire, thanks to what is arguably the state’s most powerful labor union.

And if you have children in school or are just paying close attention for whatever reason, you know there are teachers who do just as much for their students in June, July and August as they do the other nine months.

What complicates that in public schools is that school districts are managed by duly elected public officials who, by the nature of the beast, have little to no control over who is teaching their students. What does that say about that public office?

The ability to mold the kind of educational environment that fits the community and meets state standards is what all public school districts need and that’s simply impossible to do if you can’t manage the most critical components of the situation.

And I agree with Mr. Hess that ending the gravy train for teachers who want the job and its benefits, but not the responsibility of doing it well, would bring the kinds of adults we want into the profession, even if it’s only because the kinds we don’t want would look elsewhere for an easy ride to retirement.

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