Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 31 2010

I’d love to work under Michelle Rhee

Wall Street Journal essay by Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty! READ THIS.

While I know there are valid criticisms of Rhee and her approach, you have to respect her guts … and her logic. Teachers can be paid more if they do a good job. They can not receive raises if they don’t do a good job. Teachers who are not effectively teaching children can be fired. The worst teachers are the first to go in layoffs. This is AMAZING, and it actually makes sense. Why is this not standard?

Teachers have somehow developed the belief that we have a right to be in our classrooms and do whatever we want. Because we’re willing to put up with lots of children for little money, there’s a belief we should be untouchable on every other level. But I’m actually going to venture that this job is one of the most important jobs you can have, and as such it should be held to the absolute highest level of accountability. If you are not incredibly phenomenal at teaching children, you shouldn’t be doing it. And if that makes teachers frightened for their jobs every single day, then so be it. People who can’t take it should go find a job where you don’t ruin lives if you’re bad at it.

In any other industry, if you’re bad at your job, you don’t have it anymore. If you’re good at your job, you keep it and get paid more. Why is education different? Teachers will argue that it’s too hard to tell who’s a good teacher and too much risk that they’ll get fired because administration is out to get them, but both of those arguments are crap. Principals know who the good teachers are, and if they fire you unfairly and you’re really a superstar teacher, you’ll manage to get a job at another school. If you can’t hold another job, you might not actually be that good.

We complain all the time that teachers don’t get enough respect or enough credit, and that’s true. But it’s hard to blame people for not giving us credit. I have a job I can’t be fired from? No one’s impressed.

I know it pisses off a lot of teachers when we say things like this, and I’m sure people blame my opinions on me being TFA and “not really getting it,” but I believe this really strongly and am not afraid to put it in writing. If I’m a bad teacher, they should fire me, too. Fire me tomorrow and replace me with someone who will be better for my kids. It would suck and I would probably cry a lot, but this job isn’t supposed to be about my feelings. I’d be fully supportive of changes to our system that actually put the interests of kids before those of adults. Sign me up.

6 Responses

  1. Ms. Nolte

    Amen, sister.

  2. I honestly wonder if you have much work experience outside of teaching because there a tons of people who are terrible at their job who are employed.

  3. ALS

    I’ve heard lots of rumors about Michelle Rhee coming to Newark and all I can say is, “I hope so!”

  4. Wess

    YES. I wish we saw these words in a million other places and heard them coming form a million other teachers.
    I especially love “People who can’t take it should go find a job where you don’t ruin lives if you’re bad at it.”

  5. Amen Ms. Mathinaz–this would be great for teachers!
    @Ms. D, sure there are people in other industries who are bad at their jobs, but when you want a company to do well you create incentives to do well and fire people who are not performing. Show me a CEO who disagrees.

  6. Ms. Math

    the only thing about this is that I’ve known principals who wanted to fire people that they didn’t understand or who disagreed with them. Actually at every school I’ve ever been really close to someone’s job has been threatened because they thought about politics, education or something differently. My very favorite english teacher was almost fired because she had different political beliefs that the principal and he didn’t want anyone to disagree with them. We’ll have to be careful to protect academic freedom when implementing this concept. THe idea is good. We should be able to fire bad teachers, but I think that it’s often the amazing and opinionated ones who would feel the pressure first. Could be wrong though!

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