ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Aesthetically Teaching

Updated on March 11, 2011

“You teach like . . . you’re teaching an art class—it’s meant as a compliment.” Today, a young man in my Composition 122 class said this to me. I take it as a sign. For me, teaching is a form of art. I’ve taught at two community colleges, two four-year universities, and two middle schools. And . . . I’ve earned two excellence in teaching awards. I say this, not just to create a sense of ethos, but to reveal how deeply troubled I am by the state of public education.

Wrong Answers

There are so many problems with public education currently, it’s hard to justify wanting to be a teacher—which is horrific and sad. In President Obama’s January State of the Union address, he calls for educational leadership to create a society capable of competing on a global scale. Yet this cannot be achieved if things remain they way they are. High-stakes testing is not the answer. Nor is firing whole teaching staffs. Nor is treating public education like a business.

Wisconsin and Rhode Island are just two recent examples of America’s devaluation of education. Teachers’ unions, without a doubt, have created unforeseen problems that affect the quality of education for students. Teachers, like any other profession, ought to do their jobs well in order to keep them. The reason teacher unions exist, however, is because American society has, for a very long time, under-valued the work of educators. In all the years I’ve taught, in all the places I’ve taught, I have never made more than 36, 000 a year. The average citizen outside of education will return with, “Yeah, well, you only work ten months a year. You get off at three every day. Plus, within those ten months you have winter break, snow days, spring break, etc.” And every spouse of an educator could equally return with, “Yeah, but we can never go on vacation, never enjoy a weekend, never go to bed together at night without him carrying along a pile of papers, a laptop, or a book and highlighter.”

It’s not about the money. The rewards of teaching, when things are going well, overfill our cups. What the lack of pay does, though, is create an excuse for society at large to look down upon the profession. I am eternally grateful for the fact that my own husband makes almost three times the amount I currently do. His income allows me to continue doing what I love. Have I earned the lower pay scale, however? Do I deserve to be paid so little in comparison? If we’re looking at levels of education, I have a master’s, and he doesn’t. I’m working on a doctoral degree—and even when I finish that degree, if I choose to work in public education, I still cannot hope to make the same level of pay he is making until I’ve put in a good ten years.

High-stakes testing is meant to create accountability for the system. Instead, it immorally stresses teachers who came to the profession with hope. High-stakes testing steals that hope because it says to educators: “I realize you earned a bachelor’s degree, took a state licensure exam, and put in hours of observation and residency in order to become a teacher, but I just have to make sure you’re doing your job well enough.” High-stakes testing strips teachers of the pride they once held. Do we really think students are not, in return, victimized rather than saved by this approach?

In February of last year, Central Falls High School was, according to high-stakes testing results, failing. The school board voted to fire all of the teachers and start over. Many applauded the move believing it was a sign that society was no longer going to stand for poor teaching performance. After much negotiation between the superintendent, Frances Gallo, and the teacher’s union the teachers were allowed to keep their jobs. Students at the school, however, rallied behind the teachers. There was even a student protest. This tells us there is a disconnect. When we punish teachers for their students’ performance, or lack thereof, we are sending teachers two conflicting messages simultaneously: First, that we believe you have the power to mold students into the globally competitive individuals we want them to become; and secondly, although we believe you have the power to do this, we don’t trust that you can do this. Standardized testing does not take into account diverse influences that impact individual achievement. Socio-economic influences. Second-language learning influences. Disability influences. Emotional influences. These children are children. They are not without souls. They are not empty vessels. We, teachers, cannot simply fill them with the information they need to pass these tests, and we will continue to “fail” in the most economically, culturally, and ability-diverse areas of the nation. It is illogical to believe otherwise.

This month, Wisconsin and Rhode Island, are in the news. Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker, has proposed a Union Bill that would radically affect teachers. In Providence, Rhode Island, pink slips are again the issue. All teachers in the district have been given dismissal notices. These decisions are business decisions. They’re brought about because state budgets are in crisis—naturally the first place to cut is public education. Or is it? America needs to figure out what it wants. Do we want to send out a call for “educational leadership” that would help us create a globally competitive standing, or do we want to cripple those who come to the profession out of an almost spiritual calling? Every teacher will tell you it is work. You go home at night thinking about your kids, no matter how old those kids are. You see their faces and hear their laughter—feel their pain, when you close your eyes at night. You wake up early and stay up late because you believe you are doing something purposeful with your life.

Hope

I’ll tell you what I want. I want every child in America to be able to say this on his or her college admission essay:

"Going to a university is not about taking enough classes to get a “good” job but about gaining knowledge and experience. I want to become involved in my university and set a positive example for the other generations, my peers, and my younger sister."

This is an excerpt from my own daughter, Keila’s, essay. Imagine if this kind of seed were planted into the heart of every young adult entering college? We really would be creating something wonderful, wouldn’t we? As evident by Keila’s words, there is still hope. The only way to preserve that hope is to stop and re-evaluate the conflicting messages we are sending. Education is either important or it’s not. Teachers are either powerful, caring, professionals, or they are incompetent fools who need to be threatened with loss of their families' incomes in order to perform well.

As for me, despite the overwhelmingly disheartening shadow that threatens to engulf me, I guess I’ll go on doing what I do—teaching like I’m teaching Art.

Brief Bio: 

Jenn Gutiérrez holds an M.F.A in English and Writing. Previous work has appeared in journals such as The Texas Review, The Writer’s Journal, The Acentos Review, Antique Children, and Verdad Magazine. Her 2005 debut collection of poems titled Weightless is available through most online book outlets.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • searchinsany profile image

      Alexander Gibb 6 years ago from UK

      Written from the heart.

    • livingsimply profile image

      livingsimply 7 years ago from Isle of Arran, Scotland

      I might be the other side of the 'pond' but I couldn't agree with you more. Insightful hub that helps to remind us what education should be like.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)