“No wonder teacher burnout and turnover are at an all-time high.”
Few people turn pages of newspapers. Fewer people flip their phone apps to the editorial button to read letters to the editor. And the only thing smaller than the audience for a school board meeting telecast is the audience at an actual school board meeting.
But in just over a week, nearly half a million people have heard why an Illinois teacher has had her heart broken too many times by the new politics of school systems’ reliance upon test scores and disregard for teacher worth.
It’s not slick, like last winter’s Ed Asner-narrated modern fractured fairy tale that illustrated the California Teacher’s Union struggle:
The Asner video created more of a backlash against its production value and thus fogged over the facts that were present within its narration. In fact, Ellie’s resignation resides in its complete lack of slickness.
She is exhausted. Since 1999, after leaving a 20-year career in advertising, she followed her dream and became a teacher. But now she has to leave the job she loves–not because of the students, but because of the system. She offers plenty of examples that are happening all over the country, including:
“We were abruptly handled involuntary letters of transfer. We were called to the office one-by-one over the loudspeaker so everyone in the whole school knew which lamb was being led to the slaughter.”
Like Ellie, I’d reached a turning point last summer. I had every intention of teaching 40 years, instead of leaving last summer after 25. But continual pay-cuts and a state and city who had disregarded the immense value and experience of its employees made me instead feel fortunate just to have a career option. I’ll probably need to work an extra 10 years longer than I’d intended, but my peace-of-mind and family well-being is on the mend.
I know of ten amazing students currently in college who have decided not to become high school teachers–or teachers of any sort. “I don’t see any job security or respect for the profession.”
These ten would have been amazing educators; they would have changed the lives of over 50,000 lives by the end of their careers. They’ll be great parents and will succeed in anything they try, but they are being pushed out of the most rewarding job in the world.
In 1976’s Network, Peter Finch’s character screams the only line that most people know from the film: ”I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!” The great irony of this line is that it’s a catch-phrase that is recognized and exploited by TV network producers within the movie. It is an eerie forecast of how cable news is driven by exploitation, ratings and corporate interests. It’s even more prophetic with the “mad” anchors who have a shtick that they continue to use and hungry audience’s expect.
Paddy Chayefsky’s script and Sidney Lumet’s direction of use of evolving media are perfectly echoed through time. Thomas Payne knew the importance of a pamphlet with “Common Sense,” and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” convinced more people of the evils of slavery than any speech on a stump ever could.
To see the impact of 482,000 viewers of a ten-minute video, just read through the comments that follow Ellie’s explanation.
And just one click-down…
Education is at a major crossroad and I always want to jump ahead ten years and see how things end up.
I’m hoping that this brief, grainy, powerful video has as much impact as I think it will.