Teacher asks who will judge her performance

This letter is in response to a letter to the editor, “Teachers Should Be Rewarded Based on Merit” published Dec. 16. I am a teacher who has been educating students for 23 years. I love my job, the students, the teachers I work with, the benefits of summers off, low-cost health care and guaranteed “prep” times and lunch breaks.

I agree with the writer, Joel Drobes, when he states these obvious perks in his letter. I have a decent salary, and yes, I am tenured. I worked a hard 10 years to obtain it and I do not take it for granted. I have been employed for the past 23 years and I am honored to have been. I believe there are good teachers and bad teachers. I have been to good dentists and bad dentists. I have been to good doctors and bad doctors, and the same goes on for every profession.

Bad dentists, doctors and waitresses can be fired … and so can teachers. Many people believe that a bad teacher cannot be fired once they are tenured. That simply is not true. It is very possible. I am formally observed at least once a year, but my plans are checked weekly, my administrators drop in regularly, and every year I have a group of 24 parents that are judging me, and rightfully so, and can freely call or write in a complaint to my administrators if they are unhappy with my performance.

In the same year, I might have a few parents submit my name for Teacher of theYear. The definition of a good teacher is difficult to write. So how do we merit good teaching? Who is the judge? Standardized test scores? That idea, No Child Left Behind, has not proven to be the best judge. Schools, mine included, are being held under a microscope because our subgroups are not scoring proficient.

What are the subgroups? They are the groups of students that typically do not do well and are what makes teaching a challenge.

I work hard to reach those kids! Economically disadvantaged, special education, African-American, and English as a Second Language students are part of every community and will always exist. Many, not all, of these students do not learn easily or test well, for various reasons, despite how hard we try.

So if you work in a district that has a large population of subgroups that historically do not perform well on tests, how can we blame the teachers alone and deny him/her merit when they have tried everything they have been taught to reach these kids? I know a good teacher before meeting him or her by the smile on my own child’s face when they get off the bus, their willingness to work hard in and out of school, they don’t pretend to be sick each Monday morning, and they are learning and growing. Everyone deserves to be acknowledged for good work, but who will be judge?

Karen Sanzi