Are our school leaders truly selecting the best and brightest to teach our children?
Original post made
by Concerned, Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jul 7, 2008
My husband and I relocated to Pleasanton because of the quality of our schools. Top schools should recruit top talent, don't you think? I know of two schools in our area, elementary and middle school, who have hired teachers with out of state credentials and/or emergency credentials. Is the talent pool of teachers dwindling or does someone with an emergency credential really meet the Pleasanton standards? Do administrators even check the credentials of our teachers?
Posted by Sam
a resident of Foothill High School
on Jul 29, 2008 at 12:42 am
Without wanting to argue with anybody, I'd just like to say that I am a teacher at Foothill High School. We have a lot of very talented, dedicated people on our staff, some who are just average, and some who are mediocre.
I started teaching in California with out-of-state credentials and had to do a lot of work to gain my California certification, even though I had 15 years of teaching in another state. Pleasanton USD, unlike some other California districts, insists that all teachers meet the very highest standards.
There are a few problems in attracting teachers to any district, even one as good as PUSD:
First, teaching is a relatively low-paid profession compared to others. Yes, I know, it's a calling and we teachers shouldn't be such money-grubbers, but surely you're aware that it's impossible to buy a house in Pleasanton on a teacher's salary, even if you are at the very top of the salary scale? Teachers who do live in Pleasanton have spouses with high-paid jobs. Low salaries drive a lot of young people out of the profession. We lost half a dozen young teachers at the end of this school year when they discovered they couldn't get married and raise a family on a teacher's salary, so they left to work in private industry. These young people loved teaching, but they just couldn't live on the salary.
Second, SOME Pleasanton parents can be a bit...difficult. Pleasanton parents demand high-quality education for their kids, but some parents are unreasonable and expect the teacher to ignore all of the other kids in his or her classroom and focus on THEIR child. In an ideal world, that's what they'd do. But this is not an ideal world: this is a world in which a high school teacher has 40+ students in a high school classroom, a stack of papers to grade, and his or her own family responsibilities, too. Most parents are pleasant and cooperative, but just a few of the high-maintenance ones (and you know who you are) can make a teacher's life a living hell.
Third, a lot of our untenured teachers got layoff notices this year. No, nobody in PUSD got laid off, but a lot of teachers statewide did get laid off. The "deal" in teaching is supposed to be that you have a low salary, but you get to do socially meaningful work and have a relatively secure job. Take away our job security and you take away one of the incentives for staying in the teaching profession. A low salary, a high-stress job, AND no job security? Oh boy, where do I sign up....
Fourth, tenure protects academic freedom and promotes independence in the classroom. The hallmark of any profession is how much independence a person has in deciding how to practice that profession, within a set of community standards. Law, medicine, and teaching are all professions because lawyers, doctors, and teachers have the independence in which to exercise their judgment. Tenure doesn't protect bad teachers unless administrators let tenure function as a shield for bad teachers. Yes, there are bad teachers in the schools, but there are bad doctors, bad lawyers, bad cops, and bad parents. It is a myth that a tenured teacher can't be fired. It takes time, and there is a process, but if an administrator can show that a teacher is just not doing his or her job tenure or not, the teacher can be fired. It's happened at Foothill and it's happened at other schools where I've taught.
Finally, remember that most teachers want to help students. There's no other reason to do this job than to make a difference in a child's or a teenager's life. The pay is low, the hours are long, the working conditions can be stressful and emotionally draining. But I've stuck in the teaching profession for 20 years now for one reason: I know that I make the world a little bit better place just by doing my job to the best of my ability. And all the good teachers I know at Foothill stay in the profession for the same reason.
What do teachers want from parents? We want you to know that we're on your side, and we want you to work with us, not against us. Oh, and some more money wouldn't hurt...I still have a few payments left to make on my Ferrari and my yacht!