Opinion

Why do we put teachers last? | Guest column

By JASON BROWN, President, Federal Way Education Association

How can we put students first when we continue to put school employees last?

Teachers and other education employees have been taking it on the chin for quite some time, getting blamed for everything from failing kids to the economic crisis. For some reason, lawmakers, absent parents and a system that no longer allows teachers to teach, are not a part of the “failing schools” equation.

Most teachers are good at their jobs — when they are allowed to do their jobs. And that is the primary problem with our public schools. Teachers are not allowed to teach anymore.

Or rather, they are told how to teach in such great detail and required to document what they are teaching in such great detail. They are expected to spend so much time teaching students to pass the tests that will prove the teachers have paid such great attention to detail that the teachers don’t have time to teach the information and skills their students need.

I personally don’t put all the blame on the local districts. The pressure we all feel is a direct trickle-down effect starting at the top. More specifically, our state Legislature’s inability to do its paramount duty under the Washington State Constitution.

There are far too many lawmakers throwing around their “great ideas” for how to “fix” public education.

Teachers aren’t treated or viewed as professionals by the majority of elected leaders in this state, most of who believe that because they once attended school, they are now qualified to teach school and to tell teachers how to do their jobs.

Since the publication of “A Nation at Risk,” we have seen a narrowing of curriculum, a tightening of accountability, and a plethora of ideas that have been proposed and discarded. My proposal is that we return to letting teachers teach our students in the ways we know work best.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against change. However, I am against change that benefits a few to the detriment of many. How much money has been invested in programs and state mandates that educators knew from the start didn’t support classrooms and wouldn’t improve student learning? How much money could be saved each year if our opinions, as practitioners, were taken into account?

Until politicians get out of education, we can’t afford to get out of politics. What can you do, you ask? Write letters to the editor, contact your legislators, speak to family, friends and neighbors outside of education, vote and stay informed. Most importantly, hold our elected leaders accountable. Our students are counting on us.

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