So I’m watching the debate last night and I heard Mr. Obama say, “We all love teachers” and later, “We have fixed education”. Really? Mr. President I would love to know where these two myths exist. I teach in a district that barely keeps its head above the water when it comes to our state rating. Many have posited opinions as to why, but the truth is, we have a problem that has not been fixed or can’t by you. Our problem goes much deeper than just adding more teachers.
Mr. Obama you are correct sir when you say that teachers think class size matters. It does. Case in point? Last year my wife started the year with 42 in her classroom that was meant for 20. Now that is an impossible situation. She teaches the students who have the most trouble with math and who, honestly, don’t care about school anyway. When told she can’t move around with that many students she was told, “Get rid of your desk”. Now there is help. So yes, another teacher would have been a huge help that year. Say they would have split the class evenly giving each 21, not that is manageable. But does it “fix” education? No.
We all love teachers? I wish that were true. The truth is much of our administration does not love teachers. In the past several years much money has been spent on bringing programs to the classroom that limits the teacher’s independence. Examples? We have bought a curriculum that has lesson plans that tell you what to say and when to say it. We (teachers) have been told to use it exactly as advertised. Thankfully we have backed off of that now and allow more decision making by the teacher, but we still must use this curriculum that really isn’t very good.
In years past we brought a group in that told us five things:
- Stand in the middle of the classroom
- Have your students write more
- Recognize their effort
- Speak purposefully
- Use small groups
Really? If I didn’t know this as a teacher already then fire me! Now they call these five ideas something a little different, but this is really what they are. Why would our district spend one million dollars on a group to come in and tell us to do these five things? Because there is little love, or trust for our teachers. As for fixing education Mr. President, maybe you forgot about Texas, because things are still broke down here. When the majority of your kids can’t multiply or identify continents on a map by 7th grade, then I say we still have problems. Texas schools received a C+ by education week, hardly good by education standards.
Okay, so the bottom line is that education has become a political tool to win elections, but is so complicated that we can’t even agree on where we are, much less than we are going. Platitudes won’t fix our problem, which are many, we need innovation. And to my colleagues, money alone won’t fix the problem. So do we all love teachers? No, we love to blame them, grade them, evaluate them, give them more to do, have the use a test to evaluate students and then evaluate them with the test. And here is a question, if all my kids pass the test that makes me a good teacher? What if my kids got a 10 on last years test and a 50 on this year? Haven’t they grown more that a teacher whose kids maintained or even slipped?
Here is my suggestion, keep politicians out of education, it will never happen, which might just be our problem. Until next time, peace.