I went to a luncheon yesterday entitled, The State of Education. The speakers were our state senator, Kel Seliger and state representative, Tom Craddick. I was hoping for an honest and open debate on the challenges in education today like:
- social promotion
- teacher retention
and other topics that affect the real world. Instead I heard all about funding education, lawsuits, what type of school district we are (41 or 42) and Robin Hood, all of which are important, but as a classroom teacher, not nearly as important to your child’s education as the problems listed above.
I was in a room full of folks (save for a handful) who had last set foot in a classroom years earlier, maybe decades, and certainly not in the setting we have today. These people eat prime rib (at least we did that day) and drive expensive cars and wax poetic about, “Education is the backbone to success” or “Education is vital to the future”, which is all well and good, but slogans are of no help to the students and the schools who are struggling. Philosophical discussion is good in the university, but does little good in an AEP setting or a classroom where most of the students speak little English but are expected to pass a test written by people who have taught in years, if ever. It does little good for the teacher and student who are attempting to “beat the odds” and succeed.
I know that school funding is important and we need our politicians to have a formula on how to pay for education. But what about the day-to-day classrooms? What about the students who are so affected by the misbehavior of other students that they do not receive adequate instruction? What about the student who gets little instruction because the teacher is so busy with students who are such a behavior problem that there is no instructional time left? What about the student who is afraid to go to school because of threats and intimidation? Or perhaps they have been assaulted and the school tells them, “Our hands are tied”.
The Real World
Think this doesn’t happen? All of these things have happened and do happen with regularity at my school. Why? Part of it is due to our laws that the legislature has passed to disallow tickets to be written for classroom disruption or students can no longer be suspended for persistent misbehavior. It doesn’t take long for the students to figure this out and act in any manner they please when they figure out there are no real consequences.
So the luncheon I attended was probably lauded as a success by those who were there, but I it see as a missed opportunity. Sadly, this seems to be the norm in education today. We are trying to fix things that aren’t broken or we are putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. We need a luncheon on how to create an environment where the administrators and teachers are empowered and they are given real power to enforce an environment where students are not allowed to act as they please so real learning can occur.
I have been teaching for eight years and chose to teach. I am not teaching because I couldn’t get another job (held several good ones over the years) or because of June, July and August. I chose to teach because I thought I could really make a difference. Maybe I have or maybe I am just naive. Teachers are like everyone else, we all have things we like and dislike about our jobs. But teaching is unique because I am never done with my job. I go home and have to grade papers, plan lessons, answer emails and study what I am teaching so can be prepared. Plus, I am trying to incorporate new ways of learning and that requires extra reading and putting together podcasts and videos and websites. It takes a lot to be a good teacher, to really do a good job you are working much more than 40 hours a week, my wife and I put in at least 60, usually more. I’m not complaining, I do it because I want to, I choose to be a good teacher, not all do.
But please help me school adminstrators! Don’t be a detriment in my way, be a helper. You are proving not to be this year. Lack of communication, last minute planning, expectations above and beyond the norm and an attitude of “You are lucky to have a job” isn’t cutting it. You must do more than punish all for the mistakes of a few.
Is there hope for education in America today? Of course, if we are breathing there is always hope, but we better hurry if we want to make a difference in this generation. As for my district? I have all but given up hope. I have pulled my son out and am home schooling him and he is doing so much better. My daughter will be doing an alternative as well. As for me? I have officially made up my mind unless we have a radical change, I am leaving education, maybe not today or tomorrow, but soon. It is too frustrating and impossible to change from the inside. Maybe it has always been hard to be a teacher, but I doubt it is this frustrating. Paperwork, meetings and mindless busy-work are driving many out. Too bad, the ones leaving are the best and brightest, hmmm, maybe I have discovered something.
So if any of you out there need an old teacher in your company, I’m game. Until next time, peace.