October 9, 2021

Peter Smagorinsky: Who would want to be a teacher these days?

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Not the first time this question has come up. This time, it comes with a guest op-ed by a retired educator who spent 14 years in teaching in K-12 schools and over 30 years in university teacher education programs. His comments appear in Maureen Downey’s column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for which she asked him to address the question.

Most of the concern around this question relates to the potential deadliness of school buildings and classrooms, the absence of teachers in decision-making during the pandemic, the hostility of the public toward teachers who have no control over their work conditions, the callousness of school board members who remain aloof from danger while requiring others to risk their lives, the politicization of science at the expense of reality, the meddling of politicians who know nothing about either health or education, and more additional challenges than I can list in a single column.

And that’s just the health crisis.

Teachers can be punished for mentioning the historical fact there is racism in the United States, and that it’s built into institutions. They are being told to do more with less, an administrative bromide that has never been based in reality. They are required to maintain curricular schedules in the face of spotty attendance, greater worries than diagramming sentences, community environments saturated in grief, their own families’ health concerns, and many other social challenges.

I think the question is appropriate right now. But I think it might require modification. I know of teachers whose schools are taking the pandemic seriously, requiring masks (if not vaccines) and taking other precautions to provide as healthy an environment as this pandemic allows. Teaching is not a universally horrific profession if you can find the right place. The problem is that there aren’t many of them.

I think other questions are appropriate, too.

He goes on to address the issues of bus drivers, substitutes, and board members. Read the full piece here.

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