Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Underemployed Teacher Responds to Combs and "Teach for America"

I am an underemployed teacher. I have been working as a tutor at a learning center in the tri-state area. For the last few years, I have also substituted in several districts across the greater Cincinnati area. I have tried to get into the field of education to help educate better citizens. However, I have not been successful, despite excellent scores on my teacher exams, as well as recommendations from some of the finest true educators in this state or any other. I know of many other teachers in Ohio and Kentucky who cannot find their ways into the system, who are fine educators. Many of them I work with at the learning center and in other positions I have to make ends meet.

So, when I read of Mr. Combs and his effort to bring "Teach for America" into Ohio, I had to chuckle. It is not the " the extraneous education licensure requirements currently on the books " that is causing the brain drain to grow. Why do we need to hire just 'young recruits fresh from graduating'? It is not the licensing board that is making it tough for the best and brightest to teach. It is the politics of school districts across the state, and each school building.

For example, in my home district, many of the teachers are related to board members, former board members, or administrators or other influential "families" in the community. While some are excellent educators, there are some who are there just because they set a school athletic record 20 years ago or because mommy or daddy was a booster or things like that. In some cases, getting into a school to teach requires more connections than it takes to get into a mafia family. This is what needs to be addressed first, not licensing standards (though those are at times quite confusing, I will admit).

Other places, the boards are only looking for certain types of people. At one interview in an inner city school, I was constantly reminded by the administrator that I would be with "urban" children in an "urban" setting, and could I handle being in an "urban" situation. What the administrator was saying was that she wasn't sure I could handle the job because I was not African-American or Latino. This goes on quite a bit, in those inner city districts that need people, but instead they go for color over qualifications. Kind of a sad twist on the 1950s segregation, don't you think?

So, rather than throw a whole bunch of more people who haven't even been trained in education into the fold, why not go out and recruit those of us who have been in the system, who may not agree with it, who ARE some of the best and brightest out there, to come in and get the jobs done? I have devoted the 15 years of my life to helping kids succeed, and outside of two harassment filled years where I was castigated and shunned for my right to have my own political beliefs, I have been relegated to substituting and tutoring. Many of my former and current students tell me I am a better teacher than the ones they have in the classrooms, unsolicited. So, instead of looking to create a wider pool of those of us who are disappointed by the rather arcane and not so clear hiring methods of administrators and boards, why not look to get rid of the rampant nepotism and reverse discrimination?