Thursday, December 23, 2010

In What Other Profession...

David Reber is a teacher who wrote this article for The Examiner. In his article,  Reber discusses many of the outright wrong things that people attempt to force onto the teaching profession. Some of Reber's main points include how experience is seen as a bad thing, teachers are expected to teach students who all score at the level of perfection by 2014, requesting a raise is seen as selfish and that teachers are obviously the least knowledgeable about their field.  


One thing that Reber does not mention is that teachers are expected to be completely morally perfect. In what other profession are mistakes completely inexcusable? I can think of a few where it should be. Of course discussing your drinking habits, recreational drug use and anything illegal would be taboo for a teacher. Why? Beyond being authorities in our classroom, sometimes we exist as the sole real life role models for students. Even when there are other good, active adults in a student's life, that student still looks to her teachers to help set an example of how to live life. When teachers are younger, they can end up as that "cool older sibling" in a student's eyes. Because of our place in developing students, it makes sense for us to keep our indiscretions to a minimum.


Obviously, this doesn't mean hiding who you are as a person. There's nothing wrong with being an out of the closet teacher, an unwed mother or anything else that is completely legal. This isn't the fifties and we don't do Don't Ask, Don't Tell in teaching. Don't get me wrong, some parents will still see fit to get all bent out of shape about how you are "corrupting" the youth, but it's completely untrue. It is something to prepare yourself for if you decide to teach. No, the problem comes when you make flat out stupid decisions. Stupid decisions like driving drunk, attempting a relationship with a student or any other illegal decisions, especially those that can affect the lives of others.


What I want to know is why is it unreasonable to expect celebrities to adhere to these rules, too. I recently got into a Facebook debate with someone when I mentioned Ben Roethlisberger's motorcycle crash in which he was not wearing a helmet. When I brought this up, the man retorted that he was an athlete and shouldn't be expected to be perfect. Um, actually? When it comes to a safety issue? Yes, he should. Disregarding the fact that it was stupid to waste his teams money by being so reckless with his own body, prior to the crash, any kid who saw him just internalized the image of non-helmet wearing Roethlisberger as cool. Now that kid won't want to wear his helmet. That's to say nothing of the celebrities who end up with rape allegations and all kinds of other messes attached to their names.


Why shouldn't we expect these people, who are far more "cool" in the eyes of students than parents or teachers, to act like the role models that they are? The obvious answer that comes back is that they signed up to play ball, sing, act in movies or anything else, not be a role model. Well, I signed up to be an educator, not a role model, but they still go hand in hand. Along with the money, fame and eventual humiliation of being past their prime, celebrities also take on the job of being a role model, whether they want to or not.


Why is it reasonable to expect perfection of a teacher, who makes less than one hundredth of what some of these celebrities make, but not someone who surely understood the ramifications of their chosen profession before signing their contract? Why can't we expect Michael Vick to not participate in dog fights? Why can't we expect a paid athlete to protect his body and investment by wearing a helmet while hurling down the street at several miles per hour? Choosing to take any job in which you're going to be influencing the children and young adults of our world should come with the expectation of behaving in a reasonable, adult manner.

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