“This idea that the school is a harmonious community and that teachers aren’t competing with one another is patently false. Teachers are constantly competing with one another. They want to outdo each other. They want to be a better teacher than the teacher down the hall. That doesn’t mean they’re not going to collaborate.” – Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation.
The above quote is part of EdNC.org’s coverage of the debate concerning differentiated pay in Newton, NC on October 24th by Liz Bell.
The comment made by Dr. Stoops is more than interesting. It’s more than contradictory. It’s the very epitome of the mindset that is seeking to “reform” public education in North Carolina by undermining the teaching profession.
In fact, it’s (to quote Stoops) “patently false.”
If one looks at Dr. Stoop’s mini bio on the John Locke Foundation website, it mentions that he taught English in a Virginia public school (for 11 months according to LinkedIn) before embarking on a doctoral program and then becoming the Director of Research and Education Policy Studies for the libertarian think tank.
Dr. Stoops is literally paid to be a mouthpiece for JLF. It’s his job to tell people that teachers would rather compete against each other than collaborate. Devoid of the ability to look at education from the classroom perspective, he makes the above comment because it fits the narrative of his employer and aligns with the Art Pope mantra of free market competition even within the realm of a public good protected by the state constitution.
And that year in a classroom does not qualify Dr. Stoops to speak from a teacher’s perspective. Eleven months does not a veteran make; however, in the political terrain that was created by the likes of current GOP stalwarts, it would almost qualify him to be the state school superintendent.
As a veteran teacher, it would be great to say that every school is a harmonious community. But schools are literally fighting forces that are aimed at disrupting them. If anything is causing disharmony in schools, it is not the “competitive” streaks that exist in the teaching force; it is the constant placement of obstacles in the way of schools that teachers have to combat to help students achieve: vouchers, school performance grades, due-process right removal, graduate degree pay removal, constant flux in assessments, too much standardized tests, per-pupil expenditures lowered, charter school growth without regulation, and the list goes on.
And each one of those “initiatives” that are actually obstacles is championed by the very “think-tank” that Dr. Stoops shills for.
Furthermore, all of those obstacles are compounded by the growing income gap experienced by many of the students who attend public schools that the current NC General Assembly is enabling.
As a teacher, I do not compete with other teachers to “outdo” them. My success as a teacher is so dependent on other teachers that to work against them would be to sabotage my own effectiveness. It’s insane to think that I am competing against other teachers when there is not another person in the school with my exact schedule or teaching load who teaches the same students.
I did not fill out a self-assessment at the beginning of the year with a state approved rubric that will be used by my administrator to evaluate me on the basis of pitting myself against others. In fact, that evaluation form (the NC Educator Effectiveness System) uses the word “collaborate” and its other forms over 20 times. The word “competitive” comes up only once – as a descriptor for students after they graduate.
Teachers demonstrate leadership by taking responsibility for the progress of all students to ensure that they graduate from high school, are globally competitive for work and postsecondary education, and are prepared for life in the 21st century.
I did not renew my National Boards this past year to show how I am competing with others. In fact, part of the process is to show how I collaborate with my fellow educators for students and the community. In fact, there is a section devoted to “collaboration and Ethics.” Did I mention that NC has more NBCT’s than any other state?
I do not meet with my fellow teachers in Professional Learning Teams to figure out ways to “outdo” them. In fact, they are the best resources I have in education.
I do not have students work collaboratively in class just for show. I do it because it works.
Interestingly, Dr. Stoops referred to schools as communities. “Community” is an interesting word. I think of schools as being a “community” in the way that it is a group of people trying to build “community” with common goals and fostering a positive school culture.
I also believe that teachers who want to become better do not measure themselves in a competitive way with other teachers. They use the wealth of knowledge and perspective from other teachers to help them become better than they once were.
Ironically, Dr. Stoops works for an entity that supports and is supported by people who have much control over the dealing on West Jones Street. When it comes to public education, the efforts to work against teacher advocacy groups such as NCAE has been rather intensified. In this “right-to-work” state that allows no unions, organizations such as NCAE and local chapters, pose the biggest obstacle to the agenda that is proffered by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an agenda that wants to privatize a public good like public education.
It’s that collaboration within groups like NCAE that is keeping public education as a public good rather than allowing it to be thrown into the private market where the rules of operation have already been rigged.
If anything, it’s the very collaboration that public schools naturally have and nurture that poses the greatest opposition to “reformers.”
And Dr. Stoops is having a hard time competing against that.