The Moral Obli­ga­tion Of Ed­u­ca­tors

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - OPINION - David Wil­son Learn­ing Ev­ery Day

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.

Ev­ery day.

But some­one might say, “You don’t un­der­stand what the teach­ers are deal­ing with—“

Wrong.

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.

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