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Op-Ed: Tenure debate: Why we teachers must stop saying that we love kids

By Calvin Wolf     Oct 30, 2014 in Politics
The teacher tenure debate has returned to the forefront of the news cycle, this time due to the controversial cover of the latest TIME magazine. After an op-ed in CNN about protecting teacher tenure, this teacher needs to speak out: I don't love your kid.
As a high school teacher, I am always motivated to follow the latest twists and turns in the debate over teacher tenure. The latest twist, generated by a controversial TIME magazine cover, has apparently angered lots of teachers, reports CNN. The inflammatory rhetoric on the cover, suggesting that it was almost impossible to fire a "bad teacher," is old news. Donna Brazile's responding op-ed in CNN begins with similarly stereotypical rhetoric in retaliation: "The cover is a slap in the face to every teacher who has dedicated his or her life to bettering the lives of children."
I'm tired of teachers responding to criticism of our desire for job security and higher pay by saying how much we "love children." Frankly, it needs to stop. Even for those teachers who truly "love children," the time has come to stop using that as an argument or plea.
We teachers, especially secondary teachers, need to be respected and defend our compensation as professionals.
First of all, when teachers point out that they "love" their students, children, or teaching itself, they are essentially saying "you can mistreat me, but I'll still stay." Are we surprised, therefore, when our demands are not met? We spend too much time making it seem that we will remain at our posts out of nurturing love. Why give someone a raise if they will continue to perform out of love?
I like being a teacher. I like having a job that utilizes my knowledge, skills, and abilities. The schedule is great, the work environment is good, and I believe the compensation and benefits are sufficient. I enjoy many perks of the job, particularly the drive to keep my mind sharp. But do I gush over your teenage children? No.
Teaching is a career. I strive to be a good teacher and help prepare high school seniors for the future, be it college or work. For this, I deserve to be fairly compensated. And one of the things that brought me to the job of teaching is tenure. This "tenure," for all critics who are unaware, is merely the right to due process. If I perform poorly, I can be fired, same as any private-sector employee.
We teachers need to take "love" out of the equation. Our compensation and job security should be determined by society's value for quality education. If you want high-quality graduates who are prepared for the rigors of college or the real world, compensate us teachers well and gives us the freedom to control our classrooms as we need. We teachers are given a difficult task and should be compensated accordingly, not given mediocre pay as part of a "you don't do it for the money, and you love kids, right?" afterthought.
Secondly, the "I love children" sentiment from teachers weakens education performance, which in turn undermines the call for higher pay and retained job security for teachers. By being seen as nurturers rather than professionals, teachers have a harder time arguing for more control of their classroom and the ability to set high academic and behavioral standards. Students are further infantalized when teachers say they "love children," which prompts policymakers to focus even more on "protecting" students from "bad teachers." Ultimately, teachers' misguided rhetoric of "but we love children" leads to curricula and policies based more on protecting students' self-esteem and promoting grade inflation than on teaching and preparing students for the world.
Finally, and perhaps worst of all, the continuation of the "I love children" argument by teachers has created a unique condition among public-sector employees: The belief that teachers should be the ultimate compensation altruists. We hear more about "greedy teachers" than we do about "greedy firefighters," "greedy police officers," or "greedy soldiers." People rarely argue that we should pay firefighters, cops, and military personnel less because they should be doing their jobs out of "love." Yet, according to popular rhetoric, shouldn't these individuals also be performing out of love? Don't firefighters and EMTs love saving lives? Don't cops love protecting innocents and catching criminals? Don't soldiers love America?
Should doctors charge less because they "love" healing people?
Maybe the reason the public doesn't scrutinize the compensation for these individuals as much, or begrudge their job perks, is that they do not argue "but I love" when their merit is questioned. These individuals argue that they should be respected for the difficulty and importance of their duty. And teachers must now do the same.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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