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Thursday, Sep. 29, 2016

Is Matt Damon right about teacher tenure?

Posted Wednesday, August 3, 2011, at 11:07 AM

You may have read this headline and thought, "Why in the world is an actor talking about teacher tenure?" Well, the answer is quite simple, really: His mother asked him to. More specifically, she asked him to speak at the "Save Our Schools March." I'll include a link to that speech and a portion of it below, but first I want to address an interview at the event that is making headlines.

As you see, the journalist implies "job insecurity" is what makes Damon work hard as an actor and teachers should have the same job insecurity. He refutes that, saying that he acts because he loves to act and the same is true for most teachers. After all, why would they take relatively low pay and long hours if they didn't love what they were doing?

I find this argument particularly intriguing, considering what the state of Iowa is going through right now. If you missed my story on Gov. Terry Branstad's visit here to talk about education, click here.

I want to draw attention to Steve Bomgaars comments about using professional development to bring out teachers' passion, which may wane over the years. The governor and his staff paid particular attention to these comments. Considering this, maybe Damon has a point.

"My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me," he said in his speech. "Their time wasn't taken up with a bunch of test prep -- this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn't promote real learning. No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle. They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential. They were allowed to be teachers."

What a concept!? Teachers trying to appeal to each student's individual needs. It's hard to do that when they're busy "teaching to a test." I specifically remember the teachers who approached each students individually and which ones "taught to the test." Guess which ones had a greater impact on my life? The former, not the latter, for sure.

Damon went so far as to speak out against standardized tests altogether, referencing his mother's firm words with a principal over her son being required to take a test.

"I don't know where I would be today if my teachers' job security was based on how I performed on some standardized test," Damon continued. "If their very survival as teachers was based on whether I actually fell in love with the process of learning but rather if I could fill in the right bubble on a test. If they had to spend most of their time desperately drilling us and less time encouraging creativity and original ideas; less time knowing who we were, seeing our strengths and helping us realize our talents."

Damon concluded his speech with a word of encouragement for teachers everywhere.

"So the next time you're feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated, or at the end of your rope; the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called 'overpaid;' the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that's been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything. ... Please know that there are millions of us behind you. You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt. We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back."

So, what do you think?

Our state is having this conversation right now. We might as well have it here, too.

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[Show in chronological order instead]

The teachers I remember most are the ones that taught me life lessons and made me feel like they really cared about me. I dont remember any of the test scores, and barely any of the assignment scores.

-- Posted by spencer lover on Thu, Aug 4, 2011, at 11:41 AM

I've been getting a lot of feedback about this topic on my facebook page. In hopes of sparking the conversation here, I'll share some of the comments:

"I find that in the tenure process teachers show their stuff! However, in my experience, teachers that become tenure have become lazy and focus on their studies more than their students. The tenure process I think is good in terms of stability and job security, but it should be challenged every so often so students' education isn't at risk. Our job as teachers is to teach with passion, fervor, and with every fiber of their being."-Travis Zinnel

My friend Rusty Russell pointed out that teachers don't get to pick their students and only has them for one year at a time. Therefore, they should not be judged strictly on test scores. However, he believes, "Doing your job well for a few years should not result in job security for the rest of your career." He also talked about the fear of losing one's job as motivation.

Teacher Lisa Farmer said teacher competition can be a bad thing. "That doesn't make a school full of qualified teachers a team. Instead it leads to resentment and a building full of people who come to work to try to outperform everyone else instead of a building of teachers who come to a school to work together for the benefit of the kids."

"Fear of firing should should increase professional competition and harder work," Jason Gray said, adding an example. "My wife's principal just recently advocated a NEW grading program where a zero for not turning in homework was not very good for "morale." So he wants to make it all a 50/100 instead so their grades don't suffer so much. If you don't work, you get zero dollars not fifty."

That's not everything that's been said, but I don't want to bombard the whole comment section with just what my friends have been saying. I'd like to know what y'all think!

-- Posted by Gabe Licht on Thu, Aug 4, 2011, at 11:13 AM

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As the junior staff writer here at The Daily Reporter, I enjoy interacting with my readers. This blog will allow me to do that. Whether voicing my opinion and looking for response or asking readers to weigh in on a specific topic I am writing about, I look forward to getting to know my readers and what they think.
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