The definition of commitment is “the act of pledge, promise, commission, confinement, or an order to complete a task.” Teachers in the 21st century should be committed to education. If there is another profession that underpays the college educated, is unappreciative for the services individuals provide to the community, and viewed as the easiest jobs in the world because of “summers off,” then please let those teachers know. Even police officers, firefighters, and social workers are constantly under public scrutiny. Poor student achievement is the subject of most schools and the predicate is multiple-choice tests, student engagement, and pre-prepared curriculum kits with suggested activities. When the question of commitment and teachers is posed, three ideas come to mind.
Commitment to All Children
Commitment to most educators means a pledge and promise to help all school-aged children even when there are economical, educational, and social needst youngsters may not be receiving at home. Today, parents, administrators, and even students openly disrespect school teachers. While some parents have an interest in their child’s education, there are many who could care less, until the student experiences academic or behavioral concerns.
There are parents who curse at teachers, question their authority, and often involve administrators on the students’ behalf. There are only a few stories where teachers respond to physical and verbal threats and even fewer victories for teachers who lose employment due to standardized test scores. The fact that teachers teach students a lot of material pertinent to lifelong success does not factor into the equation.
Commitment to the Position
Teaching today’s students is a huge responsibility, one that involves every stakeholder in a child’s life from his or her classroom teacher, the school, community, and to the parent. What commitment means to a teacher? The average teacher spends countless hours after school and on weekends plannning and preparinbg for their student, often on their own dime. They are devoted to ensuring all students, regardless of educational abilities, be able to learn and compete.
Because “standards” are now the new mantra in public schools to safeguard state and federal funding, more dedication, more relationships, more school-related commitments are required. Most teacher are spending several hours before and after school tutoring students for end-of-course standardized tests. Teachers have responsibilities that far exceed daily teaching. There are many days spent controlling behavioral concerns, instead of instructional goals.
Instructional goals can be lengthy, with two to three activity changes during a class period because teachers are expected to teach all students, even those who read several grades levels below their peers. In short, the role of teachers expands to that of referee; provider of resource; and they become counselor, chef, laundress, and instructional magician all in the average school day. Needly to say, most instructional goals cannot be easily accomplished during an 8-hour period.
Commitment to Engagement
Many teachers neither came from a long line of educators, nor did they make education their first choice in college; it often came later in life after another career stint. These individuals really make a difference in the classroom because their message reflects more than the academic fact as related by the 22-year-old recent, college graduate. Some have worked years to gain enough credentials to teach and they bring experience and wisdom into the classroom.
It is more than the textbook definition of cultural geography that a 31-year-old, first-year-teacher takes into the classroom. There are personal examples of encountering tourists who speak only Spanish, why milk costs more at a downtown store versus a suburbia grocery chain, and what it is like to work for $8.00 an hour in the food service industry. These personal stories demonstrate to students the commitment people make in order to grow throughout life or to make sacrifices to gain the things that are important to them. Commitment to teaching can often derail planned goals and activities for other things in a teacher’s life. For a growing number of professionals, however, becoming a teacher cannot be avoided – it is a calling, a commitment and an obligation to help students become all they can be.
This is a brief overview that relects the number of committed teachers in our nation’s public schools. There are several who leave before sunset and arrive an hour before instruction and who remain in the classroom helping students long past the the end of the school day. They put in long hours for new and engaging activities. This devotion to create new and rewarding relationships with students shows how committed they are to education. To all my colleagues who want to hold onto the past, may I suggest they please leave the field. If you are simply waiting to retire, then retire!