This is the second entry in a three part commentary series.
People get into different professions for a variety of reasons. Some are positively inspired by predecessors, others are inspired by the trappings of success. lots of people in the helping professions to which I’m lumping in education work long hours, tackle challenging situations and are often both underpaid and underappreciated.
Now lets call a spade a spade; due to the current dearth of teachers, many experts in different areas of study have been called upon to fill the ranks of educators. i was recruited heavily to become an NYC teaching fellow as a means of earning a post graduate degree. Since history was a subject I was good at, on the surface it made lots of sense to learn how to teach it on a HS level – especially since there was such a need. I also was an attractive candidate due to both my experience in working with youth and guest presenting in middle school and high schools. Ultimately, I declined the offer for the simple reason I felt the classroom in the high school and middle school level was just not the place for me.
Now, some of the newer teachers went through a process similar to mine – being experts in their field of study and learning how to be a teacher on the job. there are pros and cons to such an approach: one of my favorite teachers was a young English teacher that was very inspiring. On the flip side, I had a few math teachers who just was awful in the classroom. I suppose if give the choice, i’d prefer a teacher trained in education first over an expert where the nuances of classroom instruction aren’t the primary skill.
More importantly, though, I’m more concerned about the health of some of the people we have tired as teachers. As we know, education is always one of the places governments like to cut funding on to close deficits. I’ve seen teachers buying their own supplies from their salaries and filling in resource gaps in many ways. With that sort of stress at work, stress at home, I’m not surprised at how vulnerable teachers could get to all sorts of pressures.
Now, I’m not saying that predators do not exist. Some of the stories that we have seen about teachers taking advantage of students have shown that the teacher in question may have possessed a predatory element. We’ve also seen situations though of teachers in this situation who had other vulnerabilities that may have factored in the crossing of such a dangerous line.
Having been taught by a cousin who was a teacher for eons for extra lessons growing up, I got insight into some of the things she experienced as a teacher. When I got much older, during her final years as a teacher she would talk about how relationships with her students and parents changed to a more lack of accountability on both parties. She found the professional too draining and constricting. Maybe she wasn’t changing with the times, or didn’t like the changes that the times had brought. Still, I learned that she did a very good job of navigating many of those stressors in her final years as a teacher.
So what does this have to do with teachers sleeping with students?
The ultimate point is that vulnerability can develop in any line of work, especially a helping professional such as teaching. I’ve seen some tough school environments where teachers work in and I shake my head in amazement. Government policy likes to put education as one of the first areas to be cut to balance a budget. Maybe talking to teachers and see what they think of this issue can be the first step.
Remember, predators and the vulnerable exist in various jobs. Maybe the focus should be reducing vulnerability and remvong the prestors from the ranks of our educators.