It seems like many media columnists end their educational reports with “just get back to teaching the ABCs”. This is a catch phrase that usually earns a few nods and murmurs of agreement. Unfortunately, a teacher who only taught the ABCs would be quickly fired.
There are 10 standards for teacher expectations in Wisconsin. None of them specifically mentions the ABCs. They do mention knowing the subject, knowing how children grow, understanding that children learn differently, communicating well, and knowing how to build relationships with students, other teachers, and the community. Not mentioned in the standards are the requirements of federal and state law that mandate how to interact with special needs students, managing professional growth, and creating longitudinal data studies.
I recently talked with an area principal who commented that the job description of teachers is the same, but the job responsibilities are much more complicated.
According to a report from Scholastic and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a professional educator spends approximately 11 hours a day working. This does not include coaching or advising extra-curricular activities. Interestingly, the report mentioned that 89 percent of teachers were satisfied with their jobs.
One must wonder, though, what is driving the loss of teachers. In 2006, Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction reported that completion of educator training programs in Wisconsin had dropped 21.9 percent. Of the graduates who do seek teaching careers, 32 percent have left the profession after their fifth year.
This does have an impact that can be felt by students and their parents. The constant need to hire and train teachers is costly. A 2007 national study reported that Milwaukee is forced to spend $8,300 to hire and properly train one new teacher. It could be worse. Chicago spends $17,872. Less easy to measure, but arguably more costly, is the impact of inconsistency, confusion, and change on student learning.
“Teaching the ABCs” is a very naive and basic way to look at a complicated and important profession.
Call is a Big Foot High School teacher.