The Moral Obligation Of Educators
You will rarely see me criticize teachers.
I worked as an educator for 27 years and needless to say, I am extremely sympathetic.
It’s not an easy job. But I must confess, when the news broke on April 3 about teachers walking out of their schools in at least three states, I was furious.
I immediately concluded that they had no right to leave their classrooms.
No legal right. No moral right.
Each one had a contract with the school district for the school year. They agreed to be there and do their job.
Furthermore, I cannot respect a decision that neglects the education of children.
The students needed to be in school and they needed the guidance of their teachers.
And they needed to be learning.
But someone might say, “You don’t understand what the teachers are dealing with—“
I understand better than most what the teachers are dealing with. I’ve been through it myself. And I’ve seen others try their best to teach through the difficulties. I’ve seen it up close.
But someone else might say, “These are extenuating circumstances. If the teachers don’t take a stand things will never have a chance to improve in the schools.” Wrong again.
The only way for any school to improve is for every teacher and every principal to be there every day working hard to help kids.
“But,” someone might say, “with things so bad, what is a teacher to do?”
I’m glad you asked.
If it is as bad as some teachers say (and in some cases I know that it is) there is a very practical option in place.
Once a teacher reaches the end of the contract, he or she has every right to leave and go teach in another school district.
If that isn’t going to work, then he or she can leave the teaching profession altogether.
This is America. It is perfectly legal to leave a position once your contractual obligations are done.
So if you are an educator and you want to make a political point, fine.
Do it at the end of the school year, and then tell anyone who will listen exactly why you left. Again, this is America. Tell everyone in town that the school has trouble, and that the pay isn’t very good, and that upgrades in the building are needed, and that there aren’t enough school supplies, and that student conduct is getting worse every year.
Tell them everything. But before you do, at least have the decency to be there for the students and help each of them prepare for the next grade.
It’s what you signed up for.
And then, once the school year is complete and you go teach elsewhere or you leave the profession entirely, no one is going to blame you. You can simply say that you can’t do it any more or that you are tired of trying or that you feel you can do more good somewhere else.
You can walk out of the situation with your head high and with the respect that the profession deserves.
But don’t walk out during the school year.
There are simply too many young people who need you. DAVID WILSON, EDD, OF SPRINGDALE, IS A FORMER HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL AND IS THE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR THE TRANSIT AND PARKING DEPARTMENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS. HIS BOOK, LEARNING EVERY DAY, IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON. YOU MAY E-MAIL HIM AT DWNOTES@ HOTMAIL.COM. THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR.