A former teacher discusses the ups and downs of education.
|I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a former teacher named, Anne. Anne has a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education and a Master's Degree in Education. She taught for 25 years. My conversation with Anne was informative and shed light on the experiences many teachers go through everyday. Although only in her late forties, Anne has left the teaching profession for good. She currently works in a supermarket and is quite content to keep doing so.
1. Why did you become a teacher?
I've always enjoyed working with young children. It seemed natural for me to pursue a career, where I could use my talents to educate them. Also, when I finally decided to go to school to become a teacher, my daughter was just a baby. I wanted a job where I could spend the most time with her. Since public school teachers get the summers off, I knew that was the best option for me.
2. What grade did you teach?
I taught Kindergarten.
3. What was your favorite thing about teaching?
When I first started, I loved the creativity Early Childhood Education allowed. It was so much fun designing lessons and watching the children learn from them.
4. You said, "When you first started". What changed after you started?
Everything. Play was taken out of the Kindergarten classroom and replaced with the more standard instruction you find in the upper grades. Naps were eliminated from the full-day program. Young children get tired and need to rest during the day. It helps them reorganize their brains and process what they've learned.
The amount of paperwork I was required to complete grew worse every year. I found some of the student expectations outrageous. Some Kindergartners just aren't ready to start reading and writing, especially if they've never been to school before. Often, when these particular students don't accomplish these goals, the teacher is penalized. It doesn't matter that the students have made progress in accordance with their own development, or that there aren't enough resources to support them. If it's not measurable on a report card the district will hold the teacher accountable.
5. What was your least favorite thing about teaching?
The lack of support I received when students in my classroom acted out.
6. Can you elaborate on the behaviors you mentioned?
Some of the children would get very violent, throwing chairs at other students or me. Sometimes they would run out of the classroom or leave the school building. One year my entire classroom had been remodeled. Within six weeks of school starting, the classroom was ruined. Many of the students had written on the floors, walls, tables and chairs. They had poked holes in the library furniture, torn up a lot of the books, and stolen a fair amount of the math manipulatives I had on the shelves.
7. Why didn't you receive the support you needed?
Lack of funding. The monetary cuts made to the public schools have caused a lot of these behaviors to flourish. There just aren't enough personnel anymore to deal with the overcrowding in classrooms and the social/emotional needs of many students.
8. Can you think of any solutions to solve this problem?
Yes. Politicians need to let teachers teach. They also need to stop attacking teacher unions and value the teaching profession. Did you know that teaching is one of the only professions, where furthering your education has little benefits? When I earned my Master's Degree I didn't get a raise like professionals in other careers do.
We also need to focus our resources on the mental health of our students. Many children have experienced horrible trauma that needs to be addressed. If we could pursue mental health in the schools with as much vigor as literacy and math we may be able to cut down on school violence.
9. That sounds like a daunting task. How would we even begin to accomplish such a goal?
Well it won't be easy, but if we all worked together, I really believe we could do it. I once suggested to my principal, that we should partner up with college students who were going to school to become psychotherapists. There has to be a way to allow college students to complete their internships by working with school age children.
10. Do you have any you suggestions for new teachers just starting out?
Don't teach to the standardized test; teach to the students.
Be an advocate for your students.
Document everything. You never know when an incident may turn against you. If you have a paper trail, you have leverage and protection.
I would like to thank Anne for her time and insight. I hope this interview helps people understand the challenges public school teachers and their students face everyday. In order to change the state of public education in our country, we must listen to those people on the frontlines, the teachers.