By PHOEBE SOLOMON
Last year, University High School (UHS) hired a water polo coach as a math teacher for the 2014-15 school year. In December of 2014, the teacher left abruptly to coach water polo at Arizona State University. Before he left, he informed certain students that he neither wanted to teach nor liked teaching. The UHS administration appointed a week-long substitute, and we, the affected classes, were under the impression that the week after, we would receive a permanent replacement.
That week, however, brought yet another long-term substitute, a very kind man who readily admitted that he was mostly unfamiliar of Algebra 2, the class in question, and would be mostly unable to explain concepts and lessons. It was also at this point that we were informed that we would have this man as our substitute until the final, the day of which we would have another substitute, and finally, during the second semester, we would have a permanent substitute. In total, we will have had three teachers in less than a single month.
It seems almost as if the entire first semester has been a bizarre experiment for the school. The students affected by this plethora of teachers feel abandoned by the administration. If this predicament says anything, it is the importance of hiring teachers with high academic priorities. With that being said, this article serves less to side with any particular reforms than to express the importance of treating students fairly and respectfully by providing them with high quality educators who are qualified and committed.
After all, education is one of the most crucial professions: a teacher’s role as a primary influence on a student has certainly been engrained in our society. In this nation, however, there is a substantial controversy as to the poor treatment of teachers, especially regarding their salaries and other benefits.
Some of the largest issues surrounding this controversy are whether teacher compensation should be based on student performance, and whether teacher tenure is making it too difficult to fire inadequate teachers.
Students, more than anyone, are able to decide whether their teachers are performing at a satisfactory level, and most students can agree that even in the most prestigious schools, not enough is done to hold teachers accountable. Perhaps, if student feedback was taken more seriously and was more systematic than current surveys, inappropriate behavior by teachers would become more detrimental to their careers, and proper classroom behavior would become more regulated. Inappropriate comments and improper instruction would no longer be disregarded.
Some argue against determining teacher salary based on student performance because some claim that it will discourage creative teaching methods and that teachers already work hard enough. There are so many wonderful, inspiring teachers in this country and in the world, making it even more unfortunate that bad teachers can be found anywhere.
Perhaps the great teachers out there care deeply enough about their students that they would want the best for them. After all, teacher reforms are meant for no other reason than the improvement of student education. If teachers become responsible for their actions, rules will not become more strict: rules will merely become better enforced.
Once a higher bar is set for teacher quality, the field will become more competitive and the general standard for teachers will go up. Of course, it is not as transparent as simply enforcing appropriate behavior; major factors, such as financial constraints, limit the amount of reform that can be implemented, and the very definition of appropriate behavior can be a blurred line.
Truly, there are many teachers who enter the profession with the intention to improve and educate the next generation. UHS is lucky to have many excellent teachers. It is unfortunate, however, that a single mediocre teacher can cast a pall over an entire academic year, and very few would deny that today’s students deserve a quality education.