Today, I have been very frustrated with our education system. It all started with seeing that this week is parent teacher conferences at my daughter’s school. She goes to a Pre-K through 8th grade school. So, yes this preschool does parent teacher conferences in the Fall and Spring. I immediately remembered the promises that the teacher made to my husband and I in the Fall about challenging my daughter, and sadly, those promises have not been kept. Yes, I have continued the conversations with her teacher about those promises. And, the day went on from there with me contemplating our whole education system, teachers, parents, and my frustrations from both sides of the table as a former teacher and now a parent.
I taught for 3 1/2 years in Higley USD and then in Florence USD. I was an aide for a year then I was an intern and a student teacher on top of that. I have always loved education. I have worked in day care, and I babysat starting at the age of 12. I love children, I love watching their “ah-ha” moments, and helping them through challenging situations. I love watching them grow socially, and seeing the joy on middle schoolers faces when you read them a story in their science class.
At 3 1/2 years I was burned out. I didn’t even make it to the statistical 5 years for burnout. I lost my passion for teaching and today I figured out why. It is a hypocritical system that drains teachers, and administrators. I am not talking about good teachers vs. bad teachers, and good schools vs. bad schools, I am talking about the root of education, the core of our system. It is hypocritical and needs changing. The system is set up now to produce factory workers, and puts kids in categories of ages, educational abilities and social abilities to get them to a growth line that was determined by a bureaucratic system . It is designed to educate children based on an economic platform that has been changing and is drastically changing still today.
As a teacher, you have the system constrains in which you need to fit. The school, and school district tells you what they are, and how they want you to conform to those standards. But, as a new teacher you went to college to get your teaching certificate, and in college right now young budding teachers are learning about how to differentiate instruction so that you hit each student at their own level and pace, how to get students to problem solve, how to get students to collaborate and problem solve through higher levels of questioning, how to demonstrate their knowledge in more ways than just pencil to paper like creating songs or videos to show that they have learned x, y & z about said topic. When the two ideas meet in the classroom there is a big struggle that occurs. One side is saying, make sure that all students have made one full year of growth and that is done via standardized test and the other side is saying make learning fun, new, challenging and make them think out side of pencil to paper so that kids aren’t left behind. CRASH!!! BOOM!!!! And, you have the hypocrisy that makes teachers heads spin. Sometimes the two messages come from the administrators as well. I applaud the schools that are starting to get teachers away from teaching to the tests, but sadly, at the end of the day, it is all about the standardized tests. This one test is what determines a schools rating (Yes, even schools receive letter grades now), administrators and teachers pay, job security and reputations, and most importantly how much money the school will receive the following year.
It is very stressful for a teacher, an administrator, and the kids. At the school I used to teach at, we had a mandatory uh-oh meeting one day before school because a teacher told students that their job security and pay was on the line so they better all do their best and show up for the test!. Even though it’s the truth, there was discipline and discussion about how that wasn’t right.
I was a kindergarten teacher. I didn’t have to worry about bench mark testing, but we were a guinea pig school for trying out a benchmark test for kindergartners so that our district could rate the kindergarten teachers. It wasn’t enough that administration watched us teach a few times a year, and was constantly walking in on us at random points of almost every day. We too would need to be held to the same standard as every other teacher. It had to be done fairly, so pencil to bubble. But, most kindergartners couldn’t read, so that meant pulling each child back for a 35 question math test and a 35 question language arts test. It took a full 2 1/2 weeks of testing to complete.
It is all hypocritical, and I did my very best to teach kids at their level. I pulled kids back to hit them at their level, challenge each one, and make their learning experience fun, because it was kindergarten after all! But, after my second child was born I lost the enthusiasm to get back in the classroom. Today, I am on the other side of the parent teacher conference table. I am the parent who wants more for my child. I want her to be challenged, and I’m not getting it. I see nothing but fights ahead of me to make sure my kids are not just a part of this factory system.
I love my husband and my mother-in-law, but today both of them told me that preschool is not real school. That right there is another problem. Well, then kindergarten is just kindergarten, and there will be more opportunities for students to be challenged, and so on and so on. I am sitting on the other side of the table, and I want more. I want my children to be able to leave my home and rule whatever industry they decide to join. I want them to see around corners and make forward thinking changes. It is a frustrating problem, and I guess I need to pray that my children are blessed with amazing teachers. How sad is that?