Friday, May 25, 2007

On my high horse

I stumbled upon a blog a few minutes ago that incensed me. It was a homeschooling blog (no problem with that, but it does color my response) and the responses to the topic the author posed caused my blood to boil. It's not even that I agree with the interview the author is writing about. It was the comments that caused me to fall over the emotional-end of year teacher abyss. You can check it out if you are so inclined:

Here is my response:

I'm not sure I should even get involved in this conversation as I am a public school teacher who loves her job and constantly has students who perform above standards on state mandated tests. School just ended, so I am going to refer to everything in past tense.

I had twenty students: 5 gifted, 3 ESOL (English as a second language), 3 on the autism spectrum, 3 SLD (diagnosed with learning difficulties), and several behavior problems (otherwise known as B.A.D.). My students sat quietly on the rug every single day as they were read to. They worked in mixed ability groups in math and reading. They can tell anyone more about GA history than most other 2nd graders because they were so intrigued about the story of the colonies that we threw most other content out of the window for a few weeks as we delved into our state history. They did draw about it, read about it, watch appropriate videos, act it out, build models of cities, etc.

I am so sick to death of hearing that educators should raise expectations. Public school teachers are not babysitting all day. We are busting our bottoms to teach children who come to school without any prior knowledge or schooling. When I was a child (I'm almost 30), I had been to a zoo, a beach, several large cities, museums, the public library, the grocery store, etc, etc, etc, all before I started school. My mother, father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends' parents read to me before going to kindergarten. I knew how to hold a book, pencil, scissors, use the restroom, and feed myself independently prior to the first day of school. There are 5 and 6 year olds who have never left their neighborhoods, never touched a book, never helped their mothers cook before coming to school. These children must be taught about life before they can be "educated" (that limited term again, I know).

If I expected any more out of my second graders they would completely shut down. I already teach them to multiply and write in cursive before they graduate to third grade. As new standards have been implemented, I am required to teach more to younger students. I CLEARLY remember learning to multiply in 4th grade. And it was a breeze. My students struggle to learn that skill. Why? Because they are not developmentally ready for it. Sure, some of them learned all their facts before school was over. They were ready. But some of my students were not developmentally prepared to learn repeated addition= multiplication.

People, we can't raise our expectations any more. We're doing the absolute best we can with the material we have. I love my job--more money wouldn't make it better. In fact, more money would not even attract more qualified teachers. There are plenty of mediocre teachers who teach to earn our current salary. Do you not think MORE money would attract the same exact type of people? CEO's are not going to leave their positions to come teach in a classroom with not enough textbooks, students who come to school unclean and hungry, deal with their parents who think their child does no wrong, fill out the gazillions of forms we are required to fill out, and still teach the children.

"And of course, teachers would be upset at having to master multiple levels of material and actually be creative!" (quoted from one of the responses prior to mine)

I don't think that's a fair statement at all. I do master multiple levels of material and I am incredibly creative in my classroom--read my class population above. I have to be creative to meet all the needs of the children. I have to be able to keep each child engaged in my lesson regardless of their learning needs. And I have to remember who needs what medication, the name of each parent, who is allowed to be dismissed to which parent on which day, how each child gets home from school, what modifications each child is required to have by law.

Good teachers teach not matter how much money we make. It's who we are.

I don't care if you homeschool or not. There are a myriad of reasons to not send your children to public school. I'm in the trenches every single day, I TOTALLY understand. But to imply that public school educators do not do a good job is a big, fat, judgemental lie. I get up day after day after day to teach. I would never say all engineers are lazy. Or all doctors have poor bedside manners. Or all stay-at-home mothers are fat and barefoot and watch soap operas all day (but you can admit it if you d0!). I teach with some amazing women. It's a slap in our face to say we need to raise our expectations or that we are failing our students. There are, without any doubt at all, problems with public education. But the problem is not with my effort or my concern about the future of this country and the impact my students will have on that future. Give me a break.


melody said...

Applauding your well-spoken stance. A good teacher teaches no matter what the salary, what the challenges...because they want to teach. Bureaucracy deals enough problems to public school teachers without lip-flapping parents speaking from uninformed positions. I thank you for doing your job well because you care.

And I'm a homeschooling mom saying this. :)

christinator said...

Kudos, Natalie...many, many kudos. Very well spoken. Do you want to move to Texas and be my daughter's 2nd grade teacher?

Stacy said...

Well written and well thought out, Natalie. I don't know how you teachers can do you job...I know I wouldn't be cut out for it. It must be so frustrating when the parents aren't helping too. I do wish there were more teachers like you...I had a few of those "just working for a paycheck teachers" when I was in school.

Anonymous said...

Nat, I am voting for you for some public office. You spoke amazingly well for ALL of us. Thank you!