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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Teaching isn't easy

Things have changed in society. At one point teachers were looked up to and revered, sadly now they are often treated with ridicule and disrespect. It’s not just the kids in the halls who come from neighborhoods that don’t value education and who have never received true consequences in their schools for their behavior those who don’t know any better that I am talking about. It’s also our community leaders, those that should know better who treat teachers the same way.

Just look at senate bill six, which was very punitive towards teachers and Governor Crist’s Task for Educational Excellence whose mandate is to improve teacher quality. The Task force is made up of eighteen Presidents of that and Chancellors of this, one parent and three classroom teachers. Then there is our own home towns City of Hope initiative led by the Times Union. Their thirty-five-person leadership council recently met to discuss education issues and not one teacher was invited. Teachers are considered so ineffective and unknowledgeable about education issues that their counsel on said issues aren’t even solicited, businessmen and politicians yes; teachers no.

The street kid in my class doesn’t know any better and sadly schools have had their ability to teach them stripped away, our leaders however should know better. They should know that teachers have to be part of the solution. I think the reason they feel that they can disregard teachers so easily is they blame teachers for the problems education is facing. The thing is teachers did not decide to fund education at such poor levels, create the f-cat, move away from discipline, pass many unfounded mandates and create a one size fits all curriculum that quite frankly is unrealistic and serves very few.

I also believe these leaders who put their memberships on these commissions on their resumes like normal folks put quarters in meters also think teaching is easy. They think not only do they get their summers off but anybody can do it too. The thing is teachings not easy; it can often be very hard and below is just one example of how hard it can be.

I try not to get to close to my students. They all have a story and it can quickly become overwhelming if I let it. The other day I didn’t do a very good job at this.

In one of the classes I co-teach a quiz was returned to the students. One of the kids had one correct out of twenty this despite the fact the quiz was both open book and open notes. This is a good kid too, participates, asks questions and always ends a sentence with sir.

I said, what’s up girl why did you do so badly. She just shrugged her shoulders. I said, come on what happened, and again she just shrugged. I rolled my eyes a little frustrated and said, okay let me see your notes, thinking she must not have been taking any. She opened her binder and there were pages and pages of notes and her handwriting was beautiful, not chicken scratches that could be hard to read. She had even taken the time to highlight the parts that were highlighted in the power points or on the board. I looked at the notes and then the questions and they matched perfectly. Every question was answered. It should have been easy and she should have made a hundred

Girl what’s the problem you have all the answers right here? Again all she gave me was a shrug. Seriously, I started getting a little frustrated, what’s the problem, in my head I thought, wow this girl can’t be that lazy.

She paused and you could literally see sadness wash over her eyes and with a wavering voice said, I can’t read them. She was humiliated. I had just humiliated her. I was momentarily speechless. After I composed myself, I rubbed her shoulder and said, we’ll get through this, we’ll make this right. I had broken my rule and let her in.

I hope we can get through this from now on I’ll go over the notes with her read the tests to her but here she is eighteen a junior in high school and she can’t read. If I am being honest I don’t know if anything I can do at this point will be meaningful.

Should I point my finger at her teachers who passed her through? Should I be mad at the administration that tells teachers with a wink and a nod to pass kids no matter what or should I be mad at a society that has let it come to this. I can’t be mad at the kid, who always participates, asks questions and ends each sentence with a sir and I pretty mad at myself already.

Teaching isn’t easy. Teachers are often faced with the choice between doing what’s right for the kid and possibly facing repercussions or doing what they have been told to do to the kid which often isn’t in the kids best interest. You might be thinking it should be an easy call; the thing is it wasn’t teachers who put themselves in that position. It was our leaders who decided they new better than teachers did, who are so dismissive of teachers they don’t even consider asking them about educational issues. A pattern that is currently repeating itself.

Nope teaching definitely isn’t easy, however having meeting about teaching without teachers apparently is.

1 comment:

  1. If teachers are told to pass a kid through by the principals - that is an absolute outrage. It explains why this country is last in education. There is no excuse for this.

    I can see that district leaders think they have all the answers and feel thy do not need the input of teachers who do the work. That would be beneath them and it could reflect on their own ability. Yet, you have to also look at the recent rally for Dignity and Respect the Union felt it need to have to draw attention to their cause.

    When you have a group of employees who show themselves in public like that, they lose any creditability they have. It creates a negative perception.

    Being in a position of senior level management, I would never have invited them to participate in any dialog to look for answers and solve problems. I would be looking for answers, not conducting a gripe session.

    Simply put, if teachers want to be taken seriously, you have to stop that kind of behavior. You have to offer ideas, be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. Likewise, the district leaders need to included those in the trenches