Since Ive retired ( four weeks. woo hoo) Ive kept in touch with a few workfriends through social media and telephone calls. The calls usually start with them calling me a five letter word — rhymes with witch — because I dont have to get ready for work the next day and they do….but we quickly move into a discussion about the mess that is public education, today. I taught for 23 years in the state system, and did a couple years in private schools too. I remember when it was fun — the kids learned, the admins did their evaluations, I wrote lesson plans, spending Saturdays with my papers spread out in front of me on the family room floor –my peers and I went to happy hour and did secret santa swaps. we made each other Christmas Presents and had High Tea one dreary day each year, in March, when nothing of any excitement was going on. We brought in guest speakers, we took trips, we wrote three page permission slips to take the kids to see the remake of Romeo and Juliet, and Rudy, and to the imax theatre to see roller coasters…
You get the spin here. Learning was all encompassing. We touched, smelled, tasted, listened to and looked at everything. Incidental learning occurred throughout the day — sometimes you could see the lightbulbs over their heads when they saw something, processed it and really understood.
Teachers met in the lounge during break. some of them smoked. We drank soda and brought in leftover birthday cake and Mardi Gras Beads….When the internet came to our district we researched woodstock and made crossword puzzles. We got excited when they called for snow —
It was fun. It was a lot of work, but it was fun. The kids sat for testing once a year. The scores mattered, but no more than their daily performance, their scores on teacher generated assessment. Teachers walked the rows, checking for notes written on hands or calculators stuck under desks.
Somewhere along the line something changed. Businessmen began to tell me how to teach. What to teach. programs came into being where someone with a degree in engineering could take a few classes and be a high school math teacher. There were shortcuts to everything — attendance was mandatory, but not really. students were expected to do homework, but we couldnt count it as a grade. Noone has to stand up as we say the pledge of Allegiance. Testing starts in October and continues through May. Teachers are evaluated based on test scores of students they may not even teach. Expected to develop growth goals with a cadre of kids, and held accountable for their progress towards the goal. Kids move in and out of a school three or four times a year. Parents take them out of the country for birthday parties or to “see my aunt, shes sick”. Teacher observations are held and computer generated based on 4 or 5 components…The dreaded improvement plan is a vehicle for firing a teacher — administrators are told that there has to be areas of improvement noted on every analysis. Its like starting with a zero and working your way up, when we all know that starting with 100 and being responsible for maintaining works better.
Administrators at the main office make decisions that have nothing to do with best practices, or they come into a building with grand plans and ultimatums and then they drop the ball on follow through.
Call me a b—- if you must. but I got out. I left mid year. I dont miss it.