When I think of the demands on teachers today, I picture the cover of the classic children’s folktale “Caps for Sale,” in which a mustachioed cap salesman falls asleep under a tree, wearing his entire stock of wares on his head. This image, unsurprisingly conjured by an elementary and middle school teacher of five years, suggests the staggering expectations policy-makers and the public have of teachers in the 21st century.
Teachers are expected to possess strong content knowledge, pedagogical expertise in rooms of diverse learners, and a heroic grasp of classroom psychology. They must close gaps in content mastery, develop students’ interpersonal skills, and create project-based learning experiences that require critical thinking and analytical reasoning. Of course, they are assumed to have artistic skill in designing inviting classroom environments and jaw dropping bulletin boards, as well as technical proficiency in integrating new media to make lessons engaging for the modern kid. They are to do all this and much more with a calm, cool demeanor, on a meager paycheck, and with minimal recognition–as teachers, our “caps” runneth over.
I spent four years teaching at Success Academy Charter Network, which recently came under attack in the New York Times for the incredible demands made of their teachers and students. And yes, Success is upfront about their unwavering commitment to excellence and setting a high bar for all involved, but what I found to be most staggering was the profound support offered to teachers to meet the demands of the day.
Lcally, Madison continues to lack K-12 diversity. a majority of the School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school.