Wednesday, August 27, 2003


"We want to be treated like professionals." This is a popular mantra of the nation's teachers and their representatives. And, of course, the people who nurture and develop our future generations deserve that level of respect. However, more often than not teachers want the respect without the accordant responsibilities or accountability. To wit, let us look at two other highly regarded professions- doctor and lawyer- and how their professional lives are regulated.
In both the legal and medical profession, a practitioner must pass a rigorous state sanctioned exam in order to engage in that work. On the other hand, while many states have "reformed" teacher certification, it remains more of a logistical than an intellectual challenge. One must jump through this hoop, cross this t, genuflect to that part of the education establishment and pay your union dues.
Neither the legal or medical professions are, to any extent, unionized or subject to old economy work rules. Teachers' daily lives are highyl regulated by work rules, including the number of "free" periods they are entitled to, whether or not they may be assigned lunch or bus duty and where they physically teach. On the other hand, doctors and lawyers work whatever hours are needed, do whatever must be done and do it where they are assigned. An attorney working for a firm may have no choice other than to change cities because the firm needs him elsewhere, but if a superintendent attempts to reassign a teacher to a school that may need her skills more urgently, he faces insurmountable obstacles.
Let us also look at compensation schemes. In the teacher's case s/he can expect to earn x number of dollars depending on where s/he fits on the salary schedule. And if s/he earns an additonal degree or certification, s/he will be entitled to higher compensation. There is no relationship between teacher compensation and teacher quality/performance. Doctors and lawyers, however, are compensated on their work product and its quality. A lawyer will not expect to earn ever larger amounts solely by sticking around the firm and taking some professional development seminars.
This is all not to say that teachers are not professionals deserving our thanks and respect, but to note that they often do not view professionalism as an obligation as well as a status. Too often teachers and their representatives stifle those reforms that might actually bring their occupation in line with the hallmarks of other professions.


Post a Comment

<< Home