Great teachers are worth their weight in gold

By Becca Hoekstra

The Guardsman

There is one single thing that can make or break your education. It’s not the discipline, subject or major. It’s not the amount of homework, the difficulty of tests or the amount of required reading.

It’s the teacher.

That single individual standing in front of the classroom can help you think in ways that make the world make sense. The good teachers are the ones who listen, who encourage your curiosity, and even let you prove them wrong sometimes. Some will even make you love a subject you thought you hated.

Maybe I’m just a freak who loves school, but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that a good teacher can change your life.

And I’ve noticed an overwhelming trend in the amazing teachers I’ve had at City College: almost all of them have been part time.

These part-timeers have been the ones who also teach at other universities in the area, giving me glee that I am getting the same education for a fraction of the price.

I appreciate the still young, part-time teachers just starting out for their energy and enthusiasm, and for trying to bring something new to their profession—as well as those who have had years to refine their craft and still haven’t settled at one school.

The best are the ones still active in their field of study, meaning students get the freshest and most up-to-date information about their potential careers.

So it makes no sense why the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges wants to remove the benefits City College is generous enough to offer to part-time staff, when these teachers are some of the best I have ever had.

City College doesn’t hand these benefitsout to every teacher they employ.

Benefits are granted only if they have been teaching here for over a year and work a certain number of hours. Part-time teachers already get paid less, can’t vote in department meetings, and don’t get paid during breaks.

They’re not the ones the school system needs to be punishing. What they should be on the lookout for are “bad” teachers.

Bad teachers are the ones who hand out copies of other people’s work, play movies every class and call it teaching.

They’re the ones who still use overhead projectors while decrying the fact that humanity
hasn’t made any new technological advancements in the last century.

They’re the ones who drop you from the class because you sit in the back and they never noticed you exist.

They’re the ones who show up to class over an hour late on multiple occasions, then insult and threaten you when you can’t make it.

They’re the ones who have been out of their fields for 50 years and have forgotten there’s a world outside of academia.

I’ve had all those teachers, and I honestly don’t remember anything from their classes except that I hated being there.

Part-time (and some full-time) teachers don’t have the freedom to perform poorly.

They have to stay on their toes, because their value as educators is constantly under question. This is not the case for teachers under tenure, who have been granted a guaranteed job for life after one year and a strict evaluation review process.

Tenure exists so that teachers feel comfortable enough to express academic freedom, meaning they can teach whatever they wish without fear of retaliation. But the amount of good teachers fired for their academic viewpoints is practically nonexistent, while the amount of bad teachers still employed because they have life-long protection is way too high.

The issue is HOW they teach, not what. And that “how” matters just as much to students, if not more.

What is being taught barely matters anyway, if all students are doing is temporarily memorizing a few facts in order to pass a multiple choice test.

I’m not saying that all part-time teachers are brilliant, and any teacher with tenure is awful (that is, for a fact, not true) but punishing teachers trying their hardest while rewarding those with the security to be sluggish makes no sense.

Tenured teachers are reviewed every three years, but to what purpose?

We need more ways to keep our teachers accountable for actually passing on a decent education. We shouldn’t have to spend hours of research on teacher rating websites to see if we’re going to actually learn something this year.

Reducing the incentives for up-and-coming or already amazing part-time teachers is no way to foster the future of higher learning.

Follow Hoekstra on Twitter: @heartbreak_news

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