329. Accountability

We expect people to do the jobs they’re hired to do, and do them well. If we elect someone to political office and she/he doesn’t do the jobs involved the way we want them done, we try to get him/her to shape up, and if that doesn’t work, we elect someone else. We can’t all be satisfied, of course; we’re not all in the various majorities that form as issues come up. But we try to make our voices heard in ways that focus on our real concerns.
Teachers are not exactly politicians, though any teacher can tell you that there are political aspects to teaching. You can’t keep saying the wrong things (or the right things at the wrong times). And teachers are affected both directly and indirectly by the electorate: funding issues, education laws, and to some degree, even personnel issues are addressed in voting booths (we elect people who hire people).
So school personnel are accountable. They’re hired to get people to learn. They’ve got to make sure that they’re teaching what the public wants taught, and that their teaching causes conspicuous learning. If not, they have to deal with whatever consequences the public can manage to come up with.
As with politicians, the public isn’t necessarily able to correct teachers’ behavior as immediately as some people wish. Teachers – especially those with tenure – have some protection from the whims of the masses; they can’t be fired just because an angry pack of people doesn’t like what they’re doing. Sometimes teachers go through Hell when their heart-felt convictions conflict with those of people who want them to “shape up or ship out.” I have gone through that Hell, and I know many other teachers who have, too.
But people who send or bring their children to school have rights, too. And sometimes they object to things that are downright objectionable: favoritism, sloth, inappropriate modelling, and incompetence. At least some of their tax dollars are used to pay teachers and administrators, and they don’t want to pay those dollars for work that doesn’t end up getting done the way they want it done.
Like people in voting booths, concerned parents sometimes feel as if they’re spitting in the wind. They grudgingly pay those tax dollars to get their children educated, and then some pay tuition to REALLY get their children educated. They’re angry; that’s not the way the system is supposed to work.
Teacher accountability is not at all a simple issue. Most teachers care about both children and parents, but they also care about the environment, the government, various social issues – the way the world goes. And some may not have the same priorities others may wish they had. But hang in there. Let’s keep holding each other and ourselves accountable for what happens to children. We can work it out.

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