"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Sad Commentary on What We Value

A year ago this month I decided to retire. My school system offered an incentive for teachers who were at the top of the pay scale (old folks) and I took it. I wrote a post explaining why I had mixed feelings about retirement. Emotionally I was ready...professionally I wasn't.

Since then I taught one semester at a local community college and didn't like it. I worked in a department where students took courses to improve their academic skills. One of these days I will write about it...for now, it's enough to say, "I didn't like it."

After I ended my short, but unfulfilling stint as a community college instructor, I began volunteering in first grade classes at a couple of elementary schools. As I walked out of the school after my first day of volunteering I felt like I had "come home."

Yesterday, I came across a blog from a teacher who is in the same position that I was last year. As I read her post I could feel the pain she was expressing. I felt it last year. It's a beautiful expression of how much she loves her children...and her profession and a commentary on the damage being done to teachers and students all over the country in the name of "reform."

She isn't ready, though.
Never once in the past 34 years of teaching did I ever want to quit. I even told my husband that if we won the lottery, I’d keep teaching. My students would just have all their own computers, art supplies galore, and any book we wanted to read as a class.
But things have gotten too hard for her.
Maybe it was the rigid schedule the principal passed out for everybody to be doing the same subject at the same time of day, or the new basal reader we have to use that we aren’t allowed to call a basal reader. Maybe it’s the look in my student’s eyes when we’re reading the newly required dry textbook when I’m used to wild and crazy discussions about amazing novels.

Maybe it’s that for the first time, our school didn’t meet AYP because two few English Language Developing students in the entire school didn’t pass their reading benchmarks.

Maybe it was the e-mail I got saying that the department of education in Oregon has raised the cut scores again this year by six or seven points per grade level, even though they just raised them a couple of years ago.

Maybe it was one of the two parents who contacted me in the first few days of school to tell me that their child doesn’t particularly love my program this year. I’m so not used to that. I’ve always had kids achieving highly and loving my class. I’m just not sure how I can use the mandated materials in the required time periods, focusing on the required skills and still get kids to really love it.

Maybe it’s the fact that I lost a third of my retirement when they reformed our Public Employee Retirement System a few years back and now I keep reading about how they want to slash it even more because of the greedy teacher unions and how this is the main reason for the budget problems in our state.

Maybe it’s that I haven’t gotten a real raise in a really really long time, or that we had to cut eight days again this year to solve our state’s budget problems. So I’m taking a big hit again, and nobody seems to notice or care.
I know this story is being repeated all over the country. Good, dedicated teachers are calling it quits because the world is closing in on them, tying their hands and destroying their ability to teach. We need to be fighting back...but not everyone can. Sometimes it's too hard to do anything but quit.

Here are a couple of the comments in response...
What angers me is that this is happening to teachers while our politicians give lip service to wanting to create this amazing education system. How? Obama wants 100,000 of the top students in math, science and technology to become teachers? Not a snowball's chance in hell. Why? To be underpaid and disrespected and told you are to blame for intractable social problems and if you even mention it, you are attacked by people who don't know the difference between an "excuse" and a "reason"?

I just wish our politicians would admit this country has lost the will to provide a decent education and that every kid is on his own.
...and this one...
What a sad commentary on what we value in 21st century america.
No kidding...
~~~
Support the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action! July 28-31, 2011
End the destructive policies and rhetoric that have eroded confidence in our public schools, demoralized teachers, and reduced the education of too many of our children to nothing more than test preparation.
~~~

2 comments:

Sean said...

I understand. I am retiring in May. I have had enough.
Emotionally I am done. The question is this...what am I going to do with myself? This bothers me more than anything else.

Stu said...

I was worried about that, too, Sean, but things came up. I volunteer in two elementary schools through the United Way. I also do some work on local teacher association web sites. You have to find things, but there are things out there.

Good luck.