Matt Damon and Teacher Tenure

By Kate Kellner Junk — I love Matt Damon.

american_teacher

As a self-professed math geek, I loved “Good Will Hunting.”  I loved the “Bourne” series. I loved “The Adjustment Bureau”

My favorite work of his, however, is now this video:

Please note: there is a brief instance of strong and potentially offensive language in this video.

Now, I could keep swooning, but instead I’m going to turn to the people who didn’t impress me in this video, namely the cameraman and the interviewer.

First of all, Mr. Cameraman, where did we get this 10% number?
It’s completely asinine, as there has yet to be ANY consensus on a metric to measure who is a “good” or “bad” teacher. Teaching is full of intangibles, and I have yet to see any set of criteria that can wholly measure a teacher’s work. When you find one, let me know, I’ll be more than happy to eat crow.

Now, let’s say I accept your premise that 10% of teachers are bad… Do you think they were always bad or that they just became bad over time? If you think they were always bad, I can pretty much guarantee you that they would not have survived long enough to qualify for tenure, so that leaves the idea that they became bad or lazy over time. If that’s the case, there are jobs that require far fewer hours and pay much more where they could go and be lazy. I don’t know why they would stay in one where they are constantly under the scrutiny of students, teachers, administrators, standardized tests, news outlets and any person who decides to open up their mouths. If you don’t truly love to teach, the pressure and stress involved really isn’t worth the paycheck.

Furthermore, while I’m sure you could dig up a few tenured teachers who do the bare minimum, the bare minimum is not quite the low bar that you think it is. Teachers’ contracts and the duties outlined within are no joke. I encourage you to look at one sometime. In fact, to save you the trouble of a google search, here’s one of my old ones.

Yes, it is really over 200 pages long.
That’s how complex a teacher’s contact needs to be.

Beyond that, teachers are required to continue their education and submit portfolios every few years just to stay licensed. You can’t fake that, and if you could, trust me, you wouldn’t want to. It’s a heck of a lot of work. You’d have to actually be working on improving your craft and if you’re going to do it on paper, why wouldn’t you implement it in the classroom? That doesn’t make any sense to me. At all.

Now to you, interviewer… You know how hard it is to get rid of a teacher because you were a student? And you being a student at one point (like every other person in America) makes you “just as educated” as a teacher when it comes to education? It makes you an expert on tenure? On the staffing decisions of school districts? I don’t really think so.

Now, I’m not about to make the case for or against tenure. That argument would take multiple posts over many weeks and I still don’t think I would be able to do it justice, but the question I would like to raise is this:

Why do people think that because they were once students or because they have children that they know what it’s like to be a teacher? Or how education works on the whole? Or what reforms need to be made?

Why, why, WHY does everyone have so much hubris when it comes to teaching?

I don’t presume to know how to be a reporter just because I watch television, so please, Reason TV reporter, don’t presume you know how to teach just because you were a student. It’s just insulting.

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