July 2012: To teach or not to teach in the public system

I have a daughter who’s a BEd candidate. She wants to teach elementary school aged kids. She has a lot to give and she’ll be brilliant. But for the time being and her own well-being I’m hoping she sets her sites on a career in the private school system.

This feels blasphemous. I’ve always believed in a public school education. My kids were and are all being educated in public schools. I want to volunteer in the service of the public school system. But my heart goes out to teachers in this system who must spend increasingly more time attending to the business of teaching than to teaching itself, “business” as defined by provincial curriculum and outcomes, evaluation and assessment, and administrative work that has no direct bearing on teaching. Report cards now read like instruction manuals for complicated appliances. They clearly take large amounts of time to produce and give me information I’ll never need. Teachers are professionals trained to teach my kids. I don’t need to know or hear about the entire curriculum in each subject and how they fared each and every step of the way. The teacher need not take excess amounts of time explaining to me and 25 or 30 other parents, each by way of their child’s report card, when their time would be better spent teaching. I trust the teacher to deliver the curriculum and get to the outcomes without having to prove it to others. And I trust myself to ask questions and know when to get involved as I see fit.

Those who choose a career as a teacher are amongst the most motivated professionals on earth. In a 2012 Canadian study more than 90% reported having wanted to be a teacher their entire lives and almost as many for the purpose of making a difference in a kid’s life. These are the people I want teaching my kids. Not administrators. It’s time for administration to get back in its place and for teaching to move to the front of the line. Let’s have teachers do what they do best: teach. And let’s get to the point when kids in the public school system can fully benefit from what teachers like my daughter have to offer.

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