Teacher Investment Means Actually Investing in Teachers

Governor Chris Christie is on the rampage. Japan had Godzilla roaming the streets terrorizing people and New Jersey has the "Govenator" of the East stomping on the teachers below his feet as he walks through the Trenton streets -- snatching the roof off the NJEA building and terrorizing the teacher organization so much so that they'd be begging to pay for their own medical insurance... 5 percent rather than the required 1.5 percent. But before Governor Christie began his rampage through the New Jersey streets, he should have taken a good look at the profession and see why so many of our teachers are missing the mark. He might find that like so many of our students, many of our teachers also lack the necessary investment they need in order to be all that we intend for them to be -- agents of change.

Teaching is a profession, just like being a lawyer, doctor or accountant. Some of our most enlightened minds and passionate leaders were educators first. So why don't we treat our teachers as if they are entering an illustrious profession? A leader is not born a leader; they have skills and natural abilities that are cultivated to help create the leader they are destined to become. The same goes for creating great teachers; teachers are not born great -- it happens with time, someone investing in them, namely the school district that employs that teacher.

As a teacher, I understand the time you must put into putting together a great lesson plan, the amazing amounts of energy necessary to teach students and I know the process one goes through as they consider how to make learning engaging and worthwhile. As a first year teacher, I understand what it means to be on an deserted island; when the door closes and you're all alone with a bunch of talkative, inquisitive yet inexperienced in about everything teenagers, you are really all alone. One of the toughest things to do is to gain your composure amongst a group of students who question whether or not you know what you're doing. My first class a few months ago, I had that eye opening moment; myself in the school lecture hall, my laptop, a flash drive, a podium and 44 sophomores. It was indeed an intimidating moment. My heart was pumping, my voice cracking and my mind racing with thoughts. It is a moment I am sure a number of teachers had on their first day in a classroom. It would have been nice to have a mentor tell me that. It would have been nice to have a teacher induction program that could have spoken to the art of teaching rather than simply the technicalities of teaching.

I am not a lawyer, but I do know that a law firm would never send a young attorney in a courtroom to represent a client by themselves. I am not a doctor, but I know that new doctors must do a residence and learn the job before they get the full confidence of the hospital that employs them. So why do we send teachers into a classroom without the tutelage they need; why do we send fresh faced teachers, with no experience, into a classroom with impressionable minds? Teachers indeed have the power to expand one's learning or destroy any desire a student may have to gain knowledge. Teachers have the power to inspire one to take initiative and they have the power to inspire one to do the bare minimum to get by. Like a lawyer with a client facing the death penalty if proven guilty or a doctor with a patient facing death if a surgery goes unsuccessful, teachers hold life and death in their hands when it comes to their students. We know that a good education can lift an individual's economic status and guarantee a higher standard of living. Teachers who are unprepared; those who are not invested in, cultivated, mentored and directed, kill the students under their care.

How do we prevent murders in the classroom? We must take a look at the profession of teaching and see what all parties can do to progress the way new teachers both gain experience and gain insight. The problem isn't tenure. The problem isn't pensions or insurance. The problem is that new teachers and veteran teachers are getting bashed for being bad teachers and in many cases, they've been abandon or mentored by a poorly performing teacher. That is unfair to teachers and it is unfair to students. We're ready to play Godzilla and destroy the teachers unions and strike fear in anyone who disagrees with pay for performance, but we need to get back to the basics -- training teachers on how to teach with passion, compassion, a strong content knowledge base and an understanding of the need to prepare our children for the competition they will face when they step foot into the world. So before you call for an upheaval of your local school's teachers, see about the teachers and whether or not they are getting what they need. If you see that the teachers are just as malnourished as the students they feed via instruction, maybe we ought to question their diet and who is or isn't feeding them. Maybe instead of stomping on the NJEA building, Govenator Christie should terminate any and all bad teacher induction and mentoring programs throughout the state work with NJEA to equip all teachers with the "tool kit" needed to fix our schools.