Teaching in dehumanizing times: the professionalization imperative

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Date: May-June 2016
From: Journal of Teacher Education(Vol. 67, Issue 3)
Publisher: Corwin Press, Inc.
Document Type: Editorial
Length: 2,122 words
Lexile Measure: 1660L

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Earlier this year, teachers in the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) district in Michigan engaged in rolling teacher sick-outs to protest their deplorable working conditions. On January 11, 2016, more than 60 schools were closed due to teachers not showing up for work. On January 20, a sick-out forced the district to close 88 of its 97 schools due to more than 865 teachers being absent from classrooms (Lewis, 2016). For years, DPS teachers have voiced their concerns about poor pay, lack of supplies, overcrowding in classrooms, and unsafe building conditions. These are not new phenomena; Jonathan Kozol (2005) has been documenting such "shame of the nation," particularly with respect to traditionally marginalized populations (e.g., schools with majority students of color, schools with students in poverty) for decades. Former Detroit teachers' union president Steve Conn stated, "the young people in this city deserve the same quality education provided in predominantly white suburbs" (Lewis, 2016). According to Fox News (http://www.foxnews.com/ us/2016/01/25/qa-look-at-detroit-public-schools-teacher-sick-outs.html), Conn reported that incoming teachers make approximately US$32,000 annually, a salary lower than teachers in neighboring communities. Furthermore, there have been no pay raises in DPS for the past 4 years, and DPS teachers now pay approximately 25% of their health care costs, compared with no required contribution only 5 years ago. Equally concerning are the instructional and learning environments for teachers and students. Many DPS teachers report working in rooms without heat in the winter or air-conditioning in warmer weather, and recent city inspections have found schools with water-damaged ceilings, mold, standing water inside buildings, and rodent infestations. The sick-outs are a response to not only dehumanizing working conditions for teachers but also their resistance to state control of the school district and the governor's restructuring plan. We are calling attention to the teacher sick-outs in Detroit and the factors leading up to them in these pages, because they represent one of the numerous examples throughout the country of educators' resistance to the continued de-professionalization of teachers and teaching and the institutional and structural forms of dehumanization that teachers experience regularly. Furthermore, we believe teachers' professional self-concept is negatively impacted by inequitable working conditions in many high-need schools and communities that are not present in schools that are resource-rich. If teacher professional self-concept indeed plays a significant role in instructional quality and can contribute to student learning success (as illustrated by Paulick, GroBschedl, Harms, & Moller, 2016), what is being done--or should be done--at the building level and within the profession more generally to ensure that educators work in supportive educational spaces and have opportunities to enhance their pedagogy and practice in ways that empower and effectively prepare them to educate youth of various cultural backgrounds?

Several of the papers in this issue of Journal of Teacher Education (JTE) raise central questions related to (a) a kind of teacher professional development which fosters social justice-focused critical inquiry (see Brown, 2016), (b) mentoring teachers through instructional dialogue (see Kim, 2016), and (c) cultivating teachers' positive academic self-concept and professional knowledge (see...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A451310904