Coming to a Classroom Near You: Teacher Freelancing
Have you heard the story of the high school student who couldn’t tell you what s/he learned in a certain teacher’s class? What about the narrative involving parents who… “teacher shop” for the teacher who actually…teaches? Why is it that students infinitely benefit more from teacher X who teaches the same course as teacher Z? And what about those students who avoid a certain teacher because…on,no!..that teacher gives too much work?
If you have answers to any of the questions above, you’ve either witnessed, experienced, and/or read about teacher freelancing. What is teacher freelancing, you ask? Teacher freelancing is rampant in public schools, and it happens more often than you can imagine and far more frequently at the secondary level.
Teacher freelancing occurs when classroom teachers basically…do what they want. The heck with following the curriculum. The heck with standards. Never mind teaching skills and content. “Do they really need to know this?” “Is this book or that book…really that important?” “Homework doesn’t r-e-a-l-l-y matter.” “Honestly, it’s far more important to be the students’ ‘friends.’” “Because it’s more important to help them realize who they are.” “The heck with all that dated ‘traditional stuff.’” Alas, the classroom as therapy philosophy rules; how kids “feel” supersedes concerns of how and whether or not they've learned.
Believe me: this approach to teaching—or any variation thereof—has sadly come to dominate the teaching profession as of late. Instead of teaching skills and content, the many teachers who adopt this approach “freelance” as therapists, as older and supposedly wiser friends, as self-help gurus, as self-proclaimed rebels without a cause, as “Kurtz” characters who fancy themselves as demigods or…-goddesses over underlings who worship them.
Look, I’m not advocating for teachers to be robots, to be void of feeling and character, or to avoid making personal connections with kids. Teachers are professionals; we are hired to do our job—to deliver an adopted and approved curriculum, to teach skills and content, to treat students respectfully as individuals, to stay abreast of research and theory, and, above all else, to make sure that students learn. Teachers need not freelance; they just need to do their jobs.