Teacher Tenure: A Double-Edged Sword

Written By: Rachel Strong
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Teacher Tenure (the policy making it almost impossible to fire teachers) has noble roots. It was created to prevent a complete administration change when a new superintendent or principal arrived at a new school. It was created to protect good teachers. After a probationary period (usually two or three years), teachers have a form of job security the rest of us would die for.

Tenure was created to keep teachers safe from fire due to personal beliefs and conflicts with administrators, and when teachers would teach unpopular opinions (Why would teachers be teaching their opinions???)

More and more, we hear of teachers who are not conducting themselves in a professional manner (or even in legal manners) that, because of tenure, need to go through a long process to be fired.

In Idaho, there is a teacher who is being put on administrative leave (by law, we parents are not allowed to know why), but he is still getting his over $40,000 salary, plus his coaching stipend.

In New York City, there was a teacher who had a sexual relationship with his then-sixteen year old female student (even emailed her from his school email address) and it took six years to fire him! During those six years, the New York taxpayers were still paying him his salary for sitting in a building owned by the school district for eight hours watching TV and reading the newspaper... for having a sexual relationship with a STUDENT!

But tenure also protects those teachers who just don't care anymore. They fill a seat, stand up in front, and (like the students) stare at the clock, wait for the bell to go home and live for summer break. A teacher who does not want to teach is almost as dangerous as one who trolls the halls for his or her next sexual conquest.

According to Chap Clark, author of "Hurt: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers" "Sure, there are a handful of great teachers and a few more good teachers, but many teachers have apparently given up on the reason they entered education as a vocation in the first place." Clark spent a year substitute teaching and simply hanging out with students in an LA-area school, learning about teens and how they view the world (my personal opinion is that every parent of teens or soon-to-be teens should read this book!). He describes a teacher explaining the class he was going into with "flippant, callous description[s] of several students" dismissing these students' "ability to produce anything of value".

Teens and even younger students pick up on this attitude, and the teachers' attitudes become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy-especially when a previous teacher speaks to a current or upcoming one.

"As a rule," Clark writes, "many teachers are far more willing to get to know and invest in `good kids,' `talented kids,' or `smart kids' than in those they do not fell contribute to their own agenda. With these teachers, [teens] recognize quickly that it is up to them to decide whether they want to play that game. ... For many teachers, the litmus test of a `good' young person is how much respect the student shows the teachers."

When your student comes to you and says, "My teacher hates me," don't dismiss it-it may be true... just like some of your teachers didn't like YOU. But that doesn't mean that the teacher is bad. Clark also mentions that too often, teachers get badgered by parents and become discouraged. This is exactly what Tenure came to save.

But those teachers who have a relationship with a student...that is not what Tenure was created for. When you hear of something like this happening in your community, you-the tax payer, who is paying for this jerk to sit at home-should rise up and demand a quick and no-holds-barred firing of the teacher.

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