Advice to a Young Teacher
by Joe Gerken
If I had a son or daughter graduating from Buffalo State College, and planning to pursue a teaching career, I would tell him or her: “Congratulations. Teaching is a rewarding and exciting career. Just don’t work for the Buffalo School District.”
The obstacles facing Buffalo schoolteachers are almost insurmountable;
• A soaring student absentee rate, coupled with a state Education Department committed to judging teachers based on the academic “achievement” of these absentee students.
• A parents’ group, led by Sam Radford, that consistently vilifies Buffalo teachers and blames them for all their students’ problems.
• An administration that is, at best, lukewarm to teachers’ concerns.
• Diminishing school resources.
• A “hardcore” of defiant, rebellious, and sometimes violent students.
Now, add to this list a school board antagonistic to the teachers’ union.
In recent years, I have known three young men and women who taught in the Buffalo schools. They are all bright, idealistic creative people—the kind you would want teaching your kids. None of them lasted five years in the Buffalo district. All three are happily ensconced in school districts that respect them as professionals and provide the support they need to do their jobs well. The sad fact is that the “best and brightest” of new Buffalo schoolteachers try their best, but ultimately move on because it is just so frustrating to teach in Buffalo.
I am willing to give Carl Paladino and his “posse” the benefit of a doubt; but I am not optimistic. I fear that acrimony and partisan politics will make a bad situation worse.
> Joe Gerken, Buffalo
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