Friday, July 16, 2010

Get a job in the real world

I recently was informed that I've never had to work in "the real world" while having an online debate with a conservative. I made the mistake of letting him know that I was a teacher, and as you know, we deal pretty much in fantasy every day. To be fair, this person was referring more to the fact that I've never had to deal with the in-and-outs of a business, where my primary concern was having to turn a profit. Well, that was quite a bit presumptuous, as I did quite a few jobs before teaching, and I've definitely seen the business/money making (or lack thereof) end of things.

Still, for argument's sake, is it right to say that I don't work in "the real world"? Certainly there needs to be some distinction between teachers and other professions. Yeah, we're not out there trying to turn a profit. However, the same can be said of police officers, and I think that you'd rightfully get a punch in the head if you accused them of not living in the real world. What about sanitation workers (the garbage man, ya know)? Are you going to tell me that dealing with the crap that people toss out doesn't somehow give you a sense for how the world works? How about our soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq? I think I'm going to walk up to one of them and say, "Hey, nice job risking your life and fighting for your country, but now you need to get a job in the real world!" I plan on wearing a helmet when I do this.

Personally, I detect a bit of anti-intellectualism when this charge is hurled at teachers. And before you roll your eyes at that term, let me just say - trust me, anti-intellectualism is a serious problem in this country. How else can you explain a mother who asks me what the point is in reading Hamlet?* How else can you explain parents, who when you call to tell them that their son isn't turning in his homework, inform you that the reason why is because he's more concerned with football (as though that's a legitimate excuse)? How else can you explain kids who sit there during Silent Sustained Reading like you're torturing them by making them read anything (including magazines and/or comics!) of their choosing?

I've been told that I "dropped the ball" when a student was cutting my class for several weeks and not turning in the work. I've been told that I shouldn't mark down an assignment because the kid "worked hard" - despite the fact that I emphasized how important following the directions were. I've been told that I should let a kid make up a final that he slept through because he "didn't mean to do that." I've been told all of these things by parents.

I recently read that in the business world, you have employers who are having a hard time with new employees who have a sense of entitlement, who expect all sorts of perks that they haven't earned. They even have employees who think that they shouldn't have to do tasks that they don't like to do!

Ya know, if they talked to us teachers, we could have told them that this was coming - and we could tell them what causes it. See, we've got a pretty good way of telling what things are going to be like out there in the real world, considering we deal with those who go out and comprise it.

*Yeah, yeah, it's possible to have a reasonable conversation about why students should have to read Hamlet. I know that there are all sorts of legitimate arguments against the teaching of Shakespeare, or any other famous author for that matter. Trust me, it wasn't a critique on the play's themes or relevance. The crux of her argument was that it was "hard" and some kids "just don't get it." Yeah, that's a good reason to not learn something. I should have said that to my pre-Calculus teacher. "Hey, this is really hard, and I just don't get it. You shouldn't teach this whole imaginary number stuff."

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