Last updated: July 04. 2014 10:19AM - 423 Views
By Larry Sutton Contributing columnist

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Our dedicated teachers who serve our community’s children deserve better than an offer of a raise in exchange for giving up teacher tenure. They deserve our support, and we need to stand with them in support of teacher tenure.

Teacher tenure laws have been in place, protecting our educators from arbitrary decisions by school administrators, for years. Simply put, without tenure in place, school administrators would be able to fire anyone they wanted for any reason they wanted. Plus, it protects teachers from unreasonable “my-way-or-the-highway administrators” who might be willing to remove anyone who challenges their judgement. And, yes, teachers should have the freedom to question changes that could negatively impact students without fear of retaliation.

From my experiences as a retired high school teacher, I believe tenure encourages creativity and innovation by protecting good teachers who take those risks to inspire our children to dream, who try innovative methods to illuminate the imagination and who explore different strategies to instill a love of learning in all children.

I further believe that the great majority of teachers are good at what they do, “making a lasting impact on the lives of their students,” as they seize the “opportunity to improve tomorrow.”

There’s no evidence that teachers stop giving their all once they have achieved tenure, debunking the notion that tenure causes teachers to become complacent, settling into mediocrity, and thus hurting students.

We need to be supporting our teachers who, for the most part, genuinely care for our children, and those who remain in the trenches, serving our children, deserve the protection of tenure. In this debate over tenure, I think we all would agree that good teachers give young people their best chance at success.

Along with protecting teacher tenure, we need to make sure that all our children are being taught by culturally competent teachers whose major challenge will be confronting the myriad obstacles to a child’s success. We need teachers who can help make a difference in the lives of all children, especially those from poor neighborhoods. Teachers are key, too, when it comes to reducing the social distance between the home and school.

Tenure, as I define it, allows for the dismissal of a “lousy” teacher following due process, “the right to be heard before being condemned.” First, let’s make sure our teacher development programs are preparing teachers to deal with the challenges our 21st century teachers will encounter. Then, we have to demand more of school administrators in making sure “minimally effective” teachers are provided assistance in improving their skills and strategies. Generally, those who can’t cut if don’t want to hang around for long.

In the end, good teachers must “make sure that education wins the race,” by creating and sustaining that classroom that values all students as being equally important and gives all students a place to feel accepted, respected and protected.

As a teacher for 34 years, I was a strong advocate on behalf of the students, and I find it unimaginable that my career would have gone as well as it did if it had not been for teacher tenure.

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