While the observation that everyone who has ever sat in a classroom deems himself to be an expert on education isn’t novel, this account by an award-winning teacher is eye-opening (boldface mine):
The senator from the West is very pleased that her comment about technology replacing teachers is embraced by the people seated at the table. So far I have not been asked to speak or comment. I remain a fly on the wall at the table. How weird and familiar it feels to be an invisible teacher listening to politicians and academics speak about teachers and the teaching profession. I try not to move lest they notice me…
“What do you think?” the senator asked.
Where do I begin? I spent the last thirty minutes listening to a group of arrogant and condescending non educators disrespect my colleagues and profession. I listened to a group of disingenuous people whose own self-interests guide their policies rather than the interests of children. I listened to a cabal of people who sit on national education committees that will have a profound impact on classroom teaching practices. And I heard nothing of value.
“I’m thinking about the current health care debate, “I said. “And I am wondering if I will be asked to sit on a national committee charged with the task of creating a core curriculum of medical procedures to be used in hospital emergency rooms.”
The strange little man cocks his head and, suddenly, the fly on the wall has everyone’s attention.
“I realize that most people would think I am unqualified to sit on such a committee because I am not a doctor, I have never worked in an emergency room, and I have never treated a single patient. So what? Today I have listened to people who are not teachers, have never worked in a classroom, and have never taught a single student tell me how to teach.”
An uneasy silence cloaks the table. The governor from the South looks at his watch, the governor from the North bows his head, the governor from the Midwest stirs his coffee, the diminutive senator stares at me, and the strange little man grabs another strawberry. One by one the lunch guests leave the table.
Teaching is one of the only policy areas where having ‘boots on the ground’ experience is viewed as a negative by our chattering class. And no, that makes no sense to me either, though I imagine that the relative low salaries and the subconscious belief that this is still ‘women’s work’ probably doesn’t help.