Teaching is one of the few careers where the free will of others routinely and negatively impacts an employee’s livelihood. For example, when a student doesn’t do their homework and their grade suffers, it somehow becomes the teacher’s problem to solve. But when a patient doesn’t get an eye exam and their vision worsens, the patient is accountable, not their optometrist. The rest of the world seems to understand the value inherent in natural consequences. Just look at how these other professionals can do their jobs without repercussion of someone else’s irresponsibility hanging over their heads!
1. An unhealthy person doesn’t affect a doctor’s salary, but low test scores can result in a pay cut for teachers.
Blatantly ignoring medical advice to quit smoking, doctors diagnose a person with a pack-a-day habit with emphysema. Unwilling to change their high-fat, high-cholesterol diet, a person suffers from obesity and heart disease. Do these unhealthy outcomes negatively impact their doctors’ salary? Absolutely not! Now let’s flip the script: can apathetic students’ low test scores negatively impact school funding, thereby hurting teachers whose pay is linked to those scores? Yep. Imagine if all professionals lost money each time they could lead their horse to water but couldn’t make it drink.
2. The architect’s expertise isn’t questioned, yet teachers are constantly doubted as highly qualified.
Every day all over the world, people walk into buildings and homes without fearing that the buildings will collapse. Why? Because we assume that the architect’s skill and expertise protect us. People do not place this level of confidence in teachers, despite our multiple degrees, certifications, hours of professional development, and involvement in schools. Teachers know what works for their students, yet we’re constantly having people who have never set foot in the classroom question us.
3. Dentists aren’t blamed when their patients don’t brush and floss, but it’s the teacher’s fault when students don’t complete work.
When we don’t practice good oral hygiene and end up with cavity-filled teeth and funky breath, we know we can’t blame the dentist. No one expects dentists to offer free or additional services to those who aren’t caring for their teeth in the first place. Yet, admin and parents expect teachers to pass students who don’t do their work. Things that make ya go hmmmm…
4. Pilots aren’t forced to fly into a hurricane, but teachers are expected to continue “business as usual” despite countless hurdles.
From inclement weather to unruly passengers, even the best pilots aren’t immune to how external influences affect their ability to fly safely. Understanding the severity of these outside factors, airlines have long since implemented certain safeguards, like restricting the weight of carry-ons, to ensure the efficiency and safety of air travel. Too many teachers wonder what it’s like to have that kind of practical support when trying to teach in the face of oppositional parents, students with serious learning needs, and a dwindling pile of classroom supplies.
5. A chef isn’t expected to feed diners who aren’t at the restaurant, but teachers are expected to pass students who don’t come to school.
If I make a dinner reservation then don’t go to the restaurant, the chef is not responsible for my order. I didn’t show up for my reservation, so I don’t get to eat my meal as planned. However, this seemingly simple cause-and-effect relationship doesn’t hold true in schools. If a student doesn’t go to class, admin often don’t hold them accountable for their absence. In fact, it’s the teacher’s job to hunt them down and offer remediation. Helping a learner catch up after missing one lesson is reasonable; cramming an entire school year into the last few weeks of May because a repeatedly truant student finally decides to show up is the opposite of reasonable! *breathes into a paper bag*
6. Companies only cater to their target market while teachers have to engage all students.
Starbucks knows their consumers are coffee drinkers, so the company crafts products geared toward coffee drinkers. Teachers, on the other hand, don’t have the luxury of solely marketing to a target audience. We peddle math skills to people who don’t want them, and then evaluators judge us by how much our “disinterested buyers” know about math. I doubt Starbucks marketing directors receive negative professional evaluations for not convincing coffee-haters to drink a Starbucks blend. But principals don’t tell students who don’t want to learn to try harder. Instead, they unfairly label teachers as not good/experienced/fun/smart enough.
7. The public views skilled laborers as irreplaceable but believe any warm body can lead a classroom.
Seems reasonable to rely on a person with extensive experience and knowhow to get an important job done. We seek out plumbers, electricians, and other professionals for their expertise and skill. Yet here we are, in a national teacher shortage, accepting any adult with a pulse to educate our children. It’s as if the public truly believes teachers are that dispensable…
Teachers won’t deny that kids tend to make bad decisions and do dumb things—it’s part of growing up! But schools should be the safe place where kids practice being accountable for their behavior, instead of learning how to use others as scapegoats. We aren’t doing students any favors by sheltering them from the very consequences they’ll encounter once in the real world.