The recent NY Times article on how teachers are being courted by software companies and start-ups scares me.
It doesn’t scare me because of what the teachers are doing – they’re trying their best to give their students a chance. It scares me because big companies are taking advantage of teachers because society isn’t valuing them and what they do enough.
Teaching is hard. Really hard.
I teach at the university level, and that takes a lot of my time and effort. But primary and secondary teachers work so much harder than I do for a lot less and with a lot less.
So when companies come along and say that they will buy them a meal or give them a free login for them to blog about how great some software is, they jump on the opportunity because they are already spending their own hard earned money to help educate their students.
But here is the saddest part: they are being bought out and made to work for these companies for less than $200 a year. And why is that? Because they are finally being listened to. Because they finally feel like they are making a difference. Because they finally feel appreciated.
So if you have a problem with teachers being “bought out”, there are few really simple solutions:
- Fund teachers and schools properly. Disparity between schools and districts is driving a teacher’s desire to improve the situation of their school.
- Give teachers a real voice. Recognize excellent teachers and place them on a committee that meets twice a year to evaluate various digital materials in an unbiased way. These people would work together to find the best materials that help teachers. Make it a rotating committee where 50% of the teachers are new each year to limit industry influence. And of course, make sure that teachers are of different ages, levels, genders, and races, and come from different socioeconomic areas. Diversity is important.
- Run real scientific studies to determine the outcomes. Have schools and districts cooperate with universities and researchers to test whether the digital approaches really help in education or if companies are simply selling products that are wasting teachers’ time.
- Finally, respect your child’s teacher and support them. This is something that we should already be doing. Remember, someone else is teaching your child so you have the freedom to do what you want to. The least you can do is appreciate that.