The Hearts and Hands in Our Schools
do we know about the people working in our schools these days?
Besides the fact that there are millions of them? We know
that their job descriptions are immensely more diverse than a generation or two
Teachers, lunch ladies, a secretary, a janitor, the
principal . . . that used to be pretty much it for school personnel. Now there
are so many more people working in our school systems, doing so many more
things than teach. Just comparing a high-school yearbook of today to one from
30 years ago will make your head spin, to see all those new employees. There
are paraprofessionals and nurses, special-education specialists and
psychologists, counselors and curriculum developers. . . . In fact, with all
these new job titles, many of them fulfilling various government mandates, in
some districts there are now more people who are NOT full-time certified
classroom teachers than those who ARE!
Yes, and educational staffing has
gone far beyond school districts, as well. You find education workers in
government, nonprofit associations, lobbying groups, working for politicians,
grant writers, consultants, speakers, tutors . . . it seems as though new
niches in education jobs are opened up all the time.
But the stars of the show are still
our classroom teachers. And their jobs are still the most important ones in our
The issues of personnel in education
are as numerous as the job descriptions: salaries, benefits, working
conditions, teachers' colleges, certification, competency exams, tenure,
inservices, collective bargaining, "mission bloat," good governance
vs. interference, working with special student groups, performance evaluation,
diversity among staff, relationships between administrators and front-line
personnel, nepotism, school violence, retirement plans, early-retirement
opportunities, background checks, personal safety . . . any endeavor that is as
people-intensive as education is will naturally spawn a wide range of issues to
Personnel is one of the
fastest-changing aspects in education today, and one of the most controversial.
With all the benefits of our society's increasing diversity, it is becoming
more challenging to create unity between home and school today.
One cost of the women's movement is
that considerably fewer mothers are homemakers these days. That has shifted the
atmosphere, especially in grade schools, away from the "community"
feel of a generation ago. Then, it was parents and teachers working together on
a first-name basis. Now, it's more of a workplace atmosphere. Parents and
teachers don't know each other as well. And misunderstandings are increasing as
Everyone who cares about children
should learn more about the problems, joys and goals of the people who work in
education. Get to know them. Become their friends and supporters. Encourage
them. Learn about their issues. Criticize them, yes, but make sure it's done
kindly and for constructive reasons. Mostly let them know you care what happens
to them and the children they spend their days around.
After all, we're all on the same
side . . . doing what's best for kids.
Homework: Among the many associations of educators is the National
Education Association, www.nea.org, the
American Federation of Teachers, www.aft.org
and the Association of American Educators, www.aaeteachers.org