Posts Tagged ‘teacher tenure’

Granting tenure is just about automatic. After three years at a school (or two years depending on the school district) the vast majority of teachers receive tenure — meaning that their school/district must go through due process to remove them.

The reason teachers almost always receive tenure is simple —  it’s not like there are another 50 teachers out there vying for the job. If a new teacher is at all competent, is the principal going to risk having a job opening and perhaps getting someone worse? This is especially true if it’s a math, science or special ed teacher. There’s always a shortage in those areas. Lose a math teacher and the school may not be able to find another qualified credentialed teacher to cover those classes.

Unless you acknowledge this reality, you can’t make sense of the real issues around teacher tenure and benefits.

In an earlier post I raised a fundamental question: If you could fire 100,000 California teachers tomorrow, who would you get to watch all those classrooms day after tomorrow? Some politicians would have us believe there are swarms of highly skilled first year teachers out there begging for jobs.

Maybe there’s arrogance on the part of the anti-teacher forces because current budget cutbacks mean teacher layoffs. But the recent attacks have made teaching less attractive as a career choice (2003 = 90,000 people in California teacher education programs; 2011 = 45,000). This means fewer trained teachers in the future. And unless you foresee 200-plus students per classroom there will be a need for more teachers. We all agree on the importance of great teachers. But unless you have a pool of enough qualified teachers, how picky can schools be?

With current attacks on tenure, benefits and pensions, why would an energetic, ambitious young person in college today choose teaching as a career? That isn’t a rhetorical question. It’s one that needs to be answered.

So here’s the next question for politicians who say they want to improve our schools: How will you make teaching an attractive career choice for bright, capable people?

I teach technology-based classes. Given the speed of tech changes, it’s a drawback that  I’ve been in a classroom for the past ten years. I brought my own industry experience to my curriculum, but I’ve been disconnected from that world for ten years.

So last summer I applied for a teacher scholarship to take classes at a highly-regarded art institute (at other times I’ve paid for my own classes). Their courses are rigorous and I had very little free time given all the homework I had to complete. My final day of summer school class was the day before I had to report to my workplace for fall semester.

In one of the classes I took last summer I gained a notebook full of pointers to bring to my advanced students (“Ah, so that’s how to use this feature correctly!”  “Oh, so that’s the proper setting…”). In my other class I got a whole new (and improved) structure for my freshmen curriculum.

If I had to worry about keeping my job I would’ve spent the summer working on my resume, networking with people in related industries and on the lookout for job opportunities.  I wouldn’t have had the luxury of spending a summer taking classes.

Whether teaching summer school or visiting family, I always work on curriculum during the summer. During the school year there’s never enough time to focus on the big picture or to really plan out a new student project.

This is what teacher tenure means to me.

What kind of fool would I have to be to spend summer preparing for a job that might not be mine in the fall? Only a worse fool would spend his own money and free time taking classes for a job that could be pulled out from under him at the whim of a capricious administrator.