To be a young teacher in Minnesota

No doubt some people will note that Bill Boegeman, a social studies teacher from Minneapolis, has a luxury few other people have — a summer off. That’s often how people dismiss the perspective that teachers occasionally provide to us about what it’s like to be a teacher. As if one negates the other.

Boegeman doesn’t appear to be complaining about his chosen career in his op-ed in today’s Star Tribune about what it’s like to have to meet your expectations of a young teacher. Still, he says the task is “impossible.” if you’re expecting much more than what you’re getting out of the profession.

Class sizes are growing. I have colleagues who see more than 150 students every single day. That’s a lot of students for one person to educate. What’s more, many of those students have individualized educational plans that call for special adaptations and modifications in order to meet those students’ unique learning needs. In an ideal world, every student would have one of those plans. In the real world, those students are often the ones who fall through the cracks.

Boegeman seems to know what’s coming for his effort — “teacher bashing.” The parents who see teachers as incompetent pass the view along to their wee ones.

To be honest, they sometimes are right, but that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of the educational system, a prophecy that is bound to come true in a job that has become so undervalued, a job in which disrespect is such an inherent norm. Even for those who feel tremendously appreciated, as a collective bunch, teachers are still a far cry from the days when they were viewed as public intellectuals.

At the end of the year, he writes, he’s racing to get his history students caught up on the Vietnam war, even though he vowed when he was a “spring chicken” a few years ago that he’d make social studies “deep and meaningful,” not a recitation of names and dates.

We’ll fund schools, rethink curricula and turn teachers back into the respected figures that they need to be if schools are going to work the way that we want them to. But until that happens, we teachers are stuck with no other choice than to just keep doing the best that we can.

Not surprisingly, Boegeman ran into the expected response.

“The end of the school year is a reflective time for teachers. We think a lot about the things that we did well. We think more about the things that we could have done better,” a commenter said.

Wait for it.

“And you think about the big money you are being paid for having the summers off.”

Archive: Spring ritual: non-tenured teachers get layoff notices (NewsCut)