Is Newsday a friend or foe to the teaching profession? If you take a look at the cover story of today's edition, one would have to agree with the latter. Media plays a very important role in society in that its' primary task is to inform the public. The content and the manner in which it presents information In doing so drives the discussion and thus it must act responsibly with what it reports. With today's 'investigation,' the paper has once again shown a slanted viewpoint by sensationalizing a topic that will no doubt incite more teacher bashing.
The Newsday investigation, which takes up the first five pages of today's edition, is titled, "Take a course, get a raise." The story is about how teachers, who are required to take courses for professional development, take 'questionable' classes just to give themselves pay raises. In New York State, teachers who have earned their certificates since 2004 must complete 175 hours of professional development courses every five years, and most districts award teachers pay raises for every fifteen credits earned. The article implies that teachers waste taxpayer money in taking nonsensical classes in order to benefit themselves financially, all the while without looking at the entirety of the situation.
Teaching is one of the most honorable and important professions around. Teachers are tasked with guiding youth to prepare for life as productive members of society. Teachers do not get into this profession for the money, nor the purported mega-vacation time. Long Island is an expensive place to live in, and teachers who live and work here, like anyone else out there, must do all they can to earn a living suitable to their surroundings. Opportunities for financial gain are out there, just like in any other profession, and teachers seek them out in order to make a better living.
Of course, there are teachers who abuse the privileges that professional development affords them, and that is the focus of the Newsday story. However, it is the manner in which they do so that incites anger amongst the taxpayers and steers the conversation towards teacher bashing, and this is truly unfortunate. The piece uses language and highlights such things as the amount of the raises given for 15 credits (from $2000 to $2500), the number of what the article writer deems as 'questionable courses (100), and other such things. Here's some of what's included in the piece:
- "At least 100 classes had little connection to student learning or were of questionable academic value. Teachers received credit for 10 day trips to Australia and Costa Rica, hiking a Long Island trail, visiting railroad museums or for taking virtual trips over the computer."
It is not clear from the quote just how these afforded credits were questionable. Part of what a teacher does is bring their own life experiences into the classroom, and if such ventures had added value to that, why should it be deemed problematic? Perhaps one or any of these things were completed specifically to enhance the teacher's instruction in the classroom, or to preview for a future field trip, either virtual or real. Without knowing such things, how can one presume they are dubious?
- "Districts approved more than 750 classes that were outside of the teacher's subject area, including ...a Photoshop course and [a course] for "Designing Artistic Benches."
With today's focus on the new Core Curriculum, differentiated instruction is a must for all teachers. Teachers are expected to not compartmentalize their own content areas, but to show students how they are all interconnected. The writer presumes these two mentioned courses were outside of the specific teacher's realm, but how does she know that the knowledge gained in these specific courses was not applied in the classroom?
- "The system subsidizes a teacher's rise to school administrator. Courses such as school finance, school district leadership, and personnel management are among the nearly 300 that arguably benefit a teacher's career more than a student's education."
Many corporations finance the continuing education of their employees, usually in cases where that education benefits the company in the long run. How is this different when a teacher wishes to rise to the level of administrator, allowing them to contribute to the students on another level?
There are many more items in this lengthy expose in which professional development for teachers is dubious. Making implications such as the ones mentioned in the piece paints a broad brush across the teaching profession and is irresponsible at best. The manner in which the piece is presented is sensationalism that only works to incite the masses against one of societies most vital professions.