I hear that word and it makes me think of my Boy Scout days…back when I was trying to get as many merit badges and skill awards as I could. You know, wanting to fill that olive green sash with as many circular patches as possible to show that I was the bomb. Of course, that was a lifetime ago, back in the days of pubescence, schoolhouse crushes, and acne.
Merit seems to mean something different to me today. Maybe it’s because I read an article last night about the new bill in the process of being passed.
I don’t agree with it.
Some of you may or may not know about Senate Bill 67, which links a teacher’s pay raises directly to his or her students’ final test scores.
This bothered me.
It bothered me on many levels.
Are there bad teachers out there who aren’t up to scratch? Yes, we all know that there are; however, there is also a set that works as hard as they can, trying to make a difference, yet by denying them income to try to match the changing economy, you are going about it the wrong way to try to fix the problem of student success.
You see, I’ve had some of the students in my classes with low test scores every year that I’ve been a teacher. To try to help remedy this, I offer up extra help an hour before school to any student who needs it. I stay in my classroom during my lunch break, labs, and recesses (when I’m not on duty) to help any student who wants it. I stay after school—nearly every day—for at least an hour to be a resource for students who want help.
But no matter what I do, I still have low-scoring students.
Now, I have parents that are involved in their child’s education, and I see these kids progress and get better and better. I also see kids who simply don’t care and have little to no parental support. I have students who will not come to me for help, even when they are those who so desperately need it.
I had one particular student whose parent informed me that their child couldn’t come to school early or stay afterward with me, also, they couldn’t attend the remediation classes offered by the school—though their child severely needed it.
And still, the parent refuses to help their child with their education.
And yet, even with all of this, it’s going to be put on me.
If I were in the situation of working for a corporation, and was being judged in my competence based on the outcome of those working in my department, it would be much easier to remedy the situation: If someone weren’t up to scratch, I could terminate them and replace them with someone that had the skills I needed, this way the job would get done well.
However, in education, this simply isn’t possible.
Teachers are given the group that they get, and that’s it. We teach whoever walks into our classrooms, and we try to teach them on their level. We try to get them through the process, and yet, there is only so much a teacher can do when standing alone.
I think of that word: merit.
Really, it’s not simply the value of the outcome; it’s about finding value in the entire process.