By Paolo Martin
Most of us can probably name at least one influential teacher or person who's acted as an influential teacher to us. Take a few seconds to think about this....O.K. Now that you have a name or a face, think of one or two of the attributes that made this person such a positively influential teacher. Do those attributes sound like these?: "Passionate about the subject." "Cared a lot about students." "Believed in our ability to learn." "Made learning come to life." "Helped me find something useful in what I was learning." "Taught in a way that made learning fun." "Helped me realize my own potential." If so, you're not unlike other children who have encountered a quality teacher like Bonnie Freeman, my fifth grade teacher. Ms. Freeman really cared about our class. She talked to us about difficult topics like divorce and death. She gently told me I could do more when I wasn't trying my best. She helped us explore what we were learning in a way that was meaningful to us. In her hugs, I think she also saw the beautiful individuals we were as kids. However, she left halfway through our school year. Rumor had it that she was "encouraged" to resign because she wasn't exactly following the curriculum that the school demanded she implement. That was almost twenty-five years ago. But it doesn't seem like much has changed. I know of teacher friends who have chosen to retire or switch careers because they felt like their ability to teach effectively was compromised by government mandates and political pressures which trickled down to the classroom.
According to figures released by the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, teacher resignations have increased steadily since 2001. Not including retirees or teachers with certification problems, in New York City alone, 4,606 certified teachers resigned in 2006 - up from 2,544 in the year 2001. Furthermore, according to another New York Times article, districts have had to take new legal efforts to remove "...ineffective tenured teachers who, in spite of receiving the time and support sufficient to allow them to substantially improve, won't or can't do it." That's quite a pinch - ineffective teachers staying, good ones resigning. Something certainly has to change in the teaching profession and in educational policy. Otherwise, our children will miss out in the classroom and we'll hear fewer and fewer stories of those influential teachers who leave a lasting imprint on our children's lives.
Tags: influential teachers, teacher resignation, teacher retirement