Teacher Tenure


The title of this article is “Why teacher tenure is still needed.” It struck a chord with me as a veteran teacher, having been on strike early in my career. Although times change, human nature does not. In the early part of my career I fought for contractural rights with little thought of salary.

I grew up in the throes of the feminism movement with five brothers and two sisters. As my mom lay ill with chemotherapy treatment, my father demanded the girls take over the household. We had to quit all activities to cook, do laundry, and clean for the family of ten. I don’t blame my dad. He was stressed, it was how he was raised. The experience shaped my sense of fairness and gender equality.

When I entered college I was uniquely aware of the number of male teachers verses female teachers. During my three student teaching experiences (special education was a duel elementary degree) the teachers were all female, the principals, administrators, and other “bosses” were men. Teacher favoritism was not unspoken. We all knew who would smile coyly and flirt coquettishly to get the easy job or the extra paid duty. If the principal liked you, you caused no trouble, and the parents did not complain about you, you were tenured.

Sound reasonable or familiar?

What happened when the neighbor of the principal complained about you? What happened to the many women who hid babies for fear of not getting hired? A common interview question was, “Are you married? When do you plan on having babies?” Teachers would lie and say they were single because they desperately need the job. When I applied for an extra duty job, I was told I would not get it because “You have enough money.” The under-qualified male with the new wife got the job. This was common practice. My economics were tied to my husband. I’m still mad about it.

Tenure ensures the rights of all teachers. As pointed out in this article, principals do make mistakes. There has to be a legal way for teachers to report abuses. It is so odd to me that I am legally required to report parent abuse but can be fired when I witness education abuse.

Tenure has become a dirty word, defined as a way bad educators hold on to their jobs. The media definition is so far from the truth. Teachers CAN be fired, but because of tenure, the principal MUST legally release a bad teacher. Most principals feel the legal procedures are too much of a hassle. It takes a ton of work. It should! (I’m not the type to flirt with my boss. I need the money despite my husband’s income.)

There are bad teachers. In most buildings the principals and the teachers all know who they are. Yet the principals do nothing, year after year. We know it is hard work but when principals do not methodically release the poor teachers, it makes everyone look bad. Don’t blame the unions, blame the hassle.


1 Comment

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One response to “Teacher Tenure

  1. Thanks, Sydney for the thoughtfulness of this blog post. I have such mixed feelings about this issue, along with the teacher’s unions, so it was good to clarify why we have both, the unions supporting tenure. I think revision is needed for all to create a system that is as equitable as possible. New teachers should have the opportunity to break into the system along with those that have unconventional backgrounds that can and will make excellent teachers. That of course, does not mean to discard the old. Sometimes all that is needed is some professional development and a dose of “open-mindedness.” Again, Principals and other administrators need to become true leaders and mentor and guide for quality instruction. I think many of the administrators are not great leaders of instruction as now they are dealing with data and discipline as the most relevant issues.

    I grew up in a similar time to you and I enjoyed your account of the role of women. I see it is so much different now in some ways through my daughter, and yet it has reverted to old ideas in other ways. As you may know, one of my “causes” is women in STEM fields and promoting young women to follow their potential and passion in these areas. If you think about it as rationally as possible you would wonder why would you ever not afford the same benefits of equal pay and opportunity to women as you would to men. After all, both are human beings with equal potential. And actually, although it doesn’t happen often, their roles in parenting and other care taking should be equal, or at least mutually agreed.

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