“America’s Worst Teachers”

The job of public school teacher is one of the hardest out there.  Low pay.  Abuse (mostly verbal, but at times physical) from students and parents.  Lack of autonomy.  Proscriptive instructional approaches.  Regular turnover.  And we know it is only going to get worse in the coming years, as more than half of the current teaching workforce gets ready to retire after committing their adult lives to education.

Yes, the job is hard.  Yes, it takes a very special person who is able to go into the classroom, day in and day out, for decades and do whatever is necessary to inspire kids to learn.  Not everyone can be a teacher, despite what many of us would like to think.  It is still a calling for most, and on that just isn’t understood or appreciated, particularly in today’s environment.

That is why is was so disheartening to see the very worst of our “reality TV” culture hit the teaching profession this morning.  If you’ve missed it, in several leading national newspapers (I saw it in this morning’s USA Today) the Center for Union Facts is running a national contest to “Vote for the Worst Unionized Teachers in America.”  The anti-union group intends to pay 10 teachers $10,000 each to quit their teaching jobs.

The ad provides a strong image of a rotting apple, complete with worm.  And the ad copy is short, but none to sweet.  “Old union rules keep incompetent teachers in the classroom.  It often costs over $100,000 in legal fees to replace a teacher.  Help our kids get the education they need — let’s replace the bad apples.”

Of course, a good teacher would teach you that it should be “more than $100,000” since over signifies a spacial relationship.  But I’m not an English teacher, and this isn’t a grammar lesson.  This is a lesson on the impact of our communications activities.

The Center for Union Facts definitely knows how to grab attention.  These ads will undoubtedly result in a number of news articles about the issue.  (USA Today is running the ad, and has a story about it in the paper).  And the Center is committing big bucks to this.  Such full-page ads don’t come cheap, and there is the $100,000 bounty as well.

But this seems to be more of a “gotcha” experience than a real quest to improve the schools.  The 10 worst teachers all have to agree to allow the Center to publicize their exit from the profession.  How many teachers out there are willing to be publicly humiliated, even for $10,000?  How many of any of us would be willing to admit or accept that we are one of the 10 worst in our chosen profession?

In this time of highly qualified and highly effective teachers, we all want to see successful educators in our classrooms.  We all want to know our kids have good teachers.  We want to know they are doing what works, and that our kids and our schools are better for it.

How, then, does the Center — or anyone for that matter — determine who they worst teachers are?  If we base it on test scores alone, don’t we need to factor in the resources we made available to the teachers?  Do kids and their parents vote, allowing them to go after the “hard” teachers or those who won’t cut them a break or let them slide?  At what point do we have to look at the kids and appreciate what a teacher has to work with?  Is there a test they take, sort of an NBCT-lite test?  Are there computer rankings, like those we’ll see this week for the NCAA basketball tournament?  How, exactly, do we measure “worst?”

Clearly, the Center is targeting the NEA and the AFT.  If not, this wouldn’t be about “unionized” teachers.  Clearly, a charter school teacher or a private school teacher should be able to qualify as on of the nation’s worst teachers, no?  That’s only fair and equitable.  We all should have the chance to be the very best … or the very worst at what we do.

Yes, there are likely some teachers in our public schools today who probably shouldn’t be there.  And those teachers know it.  They know they don’t feel the passion.  They know they feel the frustration.  They know they aren’t having an impact.  But they tend to be the exceptions, not the rule.

If the Center for Union Facts has issue with the NEA and AFT, they should go after the unions and go after them hard.  There are areas where unions can be called to task for failing to meet the needs or follow the intentions of their membership.  But don’t go after the individual teachers.  Their job is hard enough.  These ads only make it harder. 

Want to deal with the worst teachers?  Spend that $250,000 or so on PD for struggling teachers.  Think of it as supplemental ed support for those teachers.  That will help kids get the education they need.

12 thoughts on ““America’s Worst Teachers”

  1. I am henny. My son will be coming for an holiday in Usa for 1 month. I will want him to engage in something that will keep him busy all the time., Because Sam is a bit playful and I will not want him to play away his time. I guess coming to your place for private lessons can keep him hooked up with something. It can be sports lessons, Saxophone, Guitar, Music, Piano lessons or just any one. You just get back to me with the cost for private lesson in your home for 2 weeks. I have someone that can drive him to your place. Just get back to me with the total cost so I can make payment to you immediately before I go on a business trip to Asia. I,ll just send a cheque. I think that will be betterReply me with the total cost for 14 days tutor (1 hr daily at your convenient time)Thanks and God Bless Youhenny.

  2. Some of the worst teachers you can find at my high school. Streator High School is lead by a principal that does’t care for the student body, only her popularity amongst the elite in the community. I wish someone would give her 10 to leave her position! She fires the inspirational teachers because it makes her work harder when the students actually ask the question “why”, instead of just accepting the answers being fed to them. Sad, truly sad…

  3. They are good and bad teachers, They are people just like us too. The problem is that with all this pay cuts , are kids will not get good edu.

  4. Beacon,NY has some of the worst teachers and worst principals in the country. One of the elementary schools has a principal that just doesn’t care anymore and a teacher that is,among other things,a liar and a fraud. several parents have complained,but the superintendant is a waste of space as well.

  5. Seems a stupid idea to pay the worst teacher to leave their job. Surely they should be looking to celebrate the best most motivating teachers in the country to try to encourage others to aspire to be the same.

  6. Seems a stupid idea to pay the worst teacher to leave their job. Surely they should be looking to celebrate the best most motivating teachers in the country to try to encourage others to aspire to be the same.

  7. We have some pretty bad teachers. It ranges from drug addicts to verbal abusers. One teacher just recently got fired for calling a former student a wh*re because she was pregnant, and the girl was 20 and married… Another was fired for throwing books at the class and cussing and storming out and staying gone for a good 3 hours without telling ANYONE…. We have some pretty terrible teachers.

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