There is no comparison

Jose,

I hope you are enjoying your summer of “rest” where I know you have traveled well over 10,000 miles in the name of professional development and in support for the teaching profession. In what other job do professionals use their “vacation” time to build their practice?

In a recent discussion with a mother of a soldier who is moving out of the the air force I found my new friend concerned about her son’s job prospects. She explained that his training as a munitions handler for fighter jets had left him without a career. She had suggested working for the power company possibly as a lineman as a potentially comparable career. Her son explained that he didn’t want to work as a lineman because it was too dangerous. In his opinion working with live rockets designed to destroy was less forbidding than fixing downed lines so I can have coffee in the morning.

For someone who hasn’t lived as an ammunition expert I felt myself feeling almost offended by her son’s lack of imagination. Well of course he could do both jobs. They are both high-risk, both depend on high-quality training, both require physical interaction with potentially deadly materials. Then I thought about teaching and I realized, I could never really know what it was like to handle rockets unless I had done it, or live electrical wires for that matter. He may still change his mind but this lack of comparison got me thinking about what other professions could be compared to teaching in comparable skills, knowledge, and practice. I found the quote below and I thought I would share it.

“If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.”
― Donald D. Quinn

The only reason I could think of that would make this soldier second guess another high risk career is the training he received as an ammunition expert. This soldier felt sufficiently prepared to work with ammunition and maybe he had reservations about the training he would receive as a lineman. The training that teachers receive before entering the profession might give someone changing careers a similar cause for concern.  In a recent post by Larry Strauss on the potential obsolescence of teaching he remarked:

“we can do what machines can never do: care about children, empathize with them, and always find new ways (ways that those virtual reality programmers would never conceive of) to reach them and inspire them.”

It is these skills that teachers use every day that make them incomparable to other professionals, virtual or flesh and blood. How can we honor this type of expertise in an accountability system that doesn’t consider these skills valuable? We prepare young teachers to enter the profession teaching to the whole child but, every step farther into the school they are told, “the test is what matters.” Perhaps the strongest teacher prep programs not only prepare teachers to help students master knowledge and skills but also to maintain their moral compass and honor the children in front of them, even when they have been told, it is the score that matters.

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