I have been wanting to write about my teaching experience for awhile now. Mostly, I have been counseled to stay quiet (I was told I might lose my job). I have listened, fearful. However, last week at brunch, a highly educated group of individuals (city planners, professors, educators) and I were talking and it dawned on me that our schools have failed our students.
And, my first reaction was to run. Quit teaching, live on an ashram and simply forget that our schools are failing our students and our society. That would be easy enough, I do not have children, my husband and I are not planning on it so this dilemma will not effect me.
Oh, but it will. It already has started.
When standardized testing became the norm and schools and teachers began seeing the repercussions of failing standardized test scores, things shifted dramatically. It is as if the entire world of public education in the United States lifted off its axis and as a result people and ideals began to slide off (see visual below–image not my credit).
This past week, my dear friend called me and told me that her grandson (a highly intelligent 3rd grader at a very successful school in town) hates school and does not want to go, and asked me what I could do to help encourage him. Within the last month, in my own classroom a 5th grader said to me, “Our teacher hates us.” I know his teacher, she does not hate her students, she is at her wits end with what to do in the classroom.
I am a 15 year+ teacher of visual art. I have worked in grade bands from Prek-12th grade. I have worked in private schools, urban schools, rural schools and suburban schools. I have taught history, been a tutor, mentor, and volleyball coach. I am literally half way through my career as an educator. At this point, I should be smiling, confident in my knowledge of my content area and how to process educational practices. I should be feeling a huge sense of accomplishment.
Insert a “but…..” here.
It is easy to complain about education, everyone has a right to, of course, as we all went through the schools ourselves. We blame parenting, we blame society, we blame our superintendent, we blame overuse of technology, and society blames teachers. I have had a massive amount of parents tell me recently that they just do not know what to do with their own children’s behavior at home. They, too, are tired and feel helpless.
Teachers however, dialog a lot. Once the air is cleared of the daily stressors of modern teaching, we find solutions, we make it work. We encourage each other, students and parents. I am going to go as far as to say, we are superheroes. And, we keep plugging along the uphill battle. We teach a student to read in kindergarten, we align our standards with content that is not our own in order to make the student’s learning multidimensional, we drink a little bit of the proverbial kool-aid that comes down from the higher ups in public education (even if we know it is suicide). We do it again every day.
AND that is because we teach students about places like St. Peter’s Basilica, and they think it is one of the coolest places on the planet. We make brains out of cardstock into hats and the students wear their thinking caps on while they work. We stay after school extra hours and tutor students in the every-changing world of math facts. We convince the student who screams every single day for 3 hours that she in fact can do school and even make friends while doing it. We counsel the parent who is confused and lost about how to maintain a student’s medication.
We keep going.
However, public educators in positions of power, please listen to our plea. WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH. We are sick of the constant changes in education (no, your idea is not new, it is just packaged differently). We are tired of your inability to consult TEACHERS about what needs we, our students and our community has. You are failing us.
I am pointing a finger here.
Because it is time that people in policy making for public education, start to listen to teachers, parents and even students. Our students are bored or teachers are overworked and burnt out. Since I have gone into teaching, their attention spans have changed, their home lives have changed. We cannot expect to keep students engaged in the environments that we are teaching in today. It simply won’t work. (see: Kids and Technology Today) We have to change our learning environment and get our students to love learning. (It should be a crime to make learning boring…especially with the resources we have as a modern educator today). We must foster creativity, exploration and critical thinking; teaching to the increasing number of standardized tests has left our society anxious and lacking the necessary skills to survive in the modern workforce.
We must come together and start effecting positive change in the classroom. Otherwise, we will reap the loses that we are dishing out to our students. They are OUR future.