I’m a teacher at Lead Charter Academy in Greenville and a Teaching Fellow with StudentsFirst SC. I have been with Lead since opening day and am approaching my 10th year as an educator.
It has been an honor to teach every day and prepare middle schoolers for the future. If I wasn’t a teacher at Lead, I wouldn’t be a teacher. I believe in our vision, and I know we are putting kids on a much better path than any other option they have in Greenville.
While I love my work in the classroom, I’m frustrated by the way the teaching profession is treated. Thousands of teachers work extra jobs, myself included, just to make ends meet. Great teachers aren’t rewarded for being great; they’re treated just like everyone else. Young teachers who might be outperforming their older peers can even be discriminated against when a reduction in force takes place – after all, state law doesn’t take into consideration whether or not your’e a great teacher, just the time you became one. How can we ensure that all students have access to a quality education with quality teachers when we could very well be dismissing the ones who are great?
I believe that teachers are professionals, and we should be treated like professionals. As an example, teacher evaluations are an incredible asset for South Carolina. Just like in other jobs, teachers should be evaluated on objective measures like student growth and subjective measures like observation to get a complete picture of their performance. The combination of objective and subjective measures make teacher evaluations effective tools for teachers to learn and improve in the classroom. The push to do away with evaluations or lower the expectations is wrong, and it diminishes the fantastic work done by teachers every day.
Every other profession has guidelines for keeping your job and incentives for getting better wages. Why don’t we? Are we not professionals, too?
Professionalizing the teaching profession ties in directly with recruitment and retention to low performing schools in South Carolina. How can we expect great, high-performing teachers to move to a district that has a culture of failure? Even with financial incentives, why would a great teacher want to enter a district that refuses to make changes that would benefit the students and teachers alike?
A “heart” for teaching can only go so long without burning out. It is our job to find good teachers, keep them in education, and remove all obstacles that prohibit these things from happening.
I believe there is a solution that would work incredibly well in South Carolina: an Achievement School District. This model takes the bottom 5% of the lowest performing schools and makes them eligible to enter a district tasked with significant improvement. It has worked in Tennessee and Louisiana and it has made these two states a hotbed of quality teachers. For example, in Memphis, where many of Tennessee’s ASD schools are located, schools are constantly competing for great teachers who are moving to the area. Some of the very best teachers are making upwards of $80,000 per year!
That is what teachers deserve. We deserve to be recruited, we deserve to be treated like professionals and most of all, we deserve to be respected for the critical work we do.