A Teacher Speaks Out

In the Comments to I Hate Reading Logs, a middle school special education teacher wrote about the difficulties teachers face. She calls herself Anonmyous 2010, and I suggest searching for her many comments on that thread. Here’s her first:

Comment to I Hate Reading Logs
by Anonymous 2010

I am an educator, and while I agree with some comments made by both parties on this web site, I truthfully feel that if a parent has tremendous issues with public education, they should simply edu­cate their children at home. That comment is not meant to be mean or harsh. I currently teach middle school special education, but I plan on staying at home with my children through their elementary school years. I don’t have any children yet (I’m 26,) but I know that public school can only provide so much individual attention towards each child in one day. If I want my child to have the oppor­tunity to play, explore, be creative, and have time to truly investi­gate all the questions they have about the world, I will have to make it my job to stay home and provide that sort of education to them.

The system has changed tremendously since I was in elementary school.

I remember my 3rd grade teacher making apple sauce after we picked local apples. I also remember hav ing eggs hatch in our classroom, and that same teacher played her guitar to us every after noon. I was left in wonder and awe on many days, but now these same teachers (who have not retired) are required to give 2nd and 3rd graders daily geography work sheets and do DIBELS test­ing every few weeks. I also believe that children are being “work­sheeted to death,” but if the principal tells a teacher that they must do certain things or get fired, a teacher only has so many options. It is one thing to tell a teacher to say “Just don’t take the standard­ized test.” You could tell your child to do that, but if a teacher did the same thing, they would be forced to resign that very day. Pub­lic education is more political than working for the government. (Education is a second career for me, as I ran a governmental program previously.) I thought I would have the chance to “change lives” and inspire kids to love reading and writing. But in all actual­ity, I have less say on what I do in my job in my own private classroom than when I was under the direct line of fire from a politician.

The public education system requries teachers to spend 90% of our time working with the 10% of students who perform the lowest. It’s draining work on the teachers, and the most hard-working, inquisitive, and dedicated children often spend a good portion of their 7 hours at school doing their own thing. I apologize that your child has not gotten what they deserve from public schools, but it is your right as a parent to pull them out of public schools and pro­vide a different learning environment at home. Again, homeschool­ing has been in my long-term plans since I decided to become an educator. Homeschooling is a freedom and a right that you have as well.

14 Comments on “A Teacher Speaks Out”

  1. April says:

    I’m a single parent, sole income provider for my two children. So my children lose the right to a quality education because I can’t afford to homeschool?
    While I understand why so many parents are going this way, it’s NOT the answer.
    It is in our country’s best interest to have as many educated children as possible become the next generation. It should not be a luxury to a select few.

    February 11th, 2010 at 12:24 pm
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  2. K says:

    I work full-time and am considering educating my gifted/LD child myself (in my office – office-schooling?). I am considering this because the school (despite the federal requirements that they do so) are failing to meet his most basic needs, let alone provide a stimulating learning environment.

    I am privileged in my work to be able to consider it.

    Should quality education (where all children are not round pegs) be limited only to those few round pegs and the families where a parent can afford the time and money and have the appropriate skill set to educate their own children? Back to the caste system, America.

    February 11th, 2010 at 1:41 pm
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  3. Jenny says:

    I am a former elementary school teacher who is staying home now to raise my three kids (ages 6, 4 and 2). I agree, things have changed in education and I love to think back to what I did in school and compare to how things are now. It’s definitely a different world: everything is better, faster, sooner, more. You are right, testing has vastly changed the classroom. Teachers are required, in many schools, to spend significant amounts of the school day preparing kids (in my case, 3rd graders) to be able to take the test. Teaching to the test…forget about learning through natural inquiry and fun projects. I taught in a large, urban school district where there was lots of poverty and not much parent involvement and I also taught in a “nicer” suburban district where there was much more family support. Huge difference. What kind of education a child is going to get in a public school depends largely on where he/she lives. That is the reality and that is a shame. You are right, if the classroom consists of numerous kids that are falling behind, those kids are the ones that will get the extra attention (both academically and behaviorally). Sadly, the kids who are above average, don’t always get the enrichment they need. That falls largely on the classroom teacher and whether or not he/she has the knowledge and education to give each child what he/she needs and wants to put in extra time and effort to do so. I remember having meetings to single out which kids were borderline, ones we thought would benefit from extra help and tutoring to boost them up to reaching “proficient” on the standardized tests. Those kids got the extra help, the higher ability kids were often ignored. So, now, as a mom of children I think are smart and need to be challenged, I am very worried daily about what is going on in the classroom. I agree that parents may want to take their children out and homeschool them, but I disagree that this is an acceptable solution. In fact, it is probably an unacceptable and impossible solution for most families. Public education and the entire system of educating and training teachers needs to be overhauled. All children should be able to get an individualized education in the public schools. Is starting up K4 programs (some of them all day) and giving homework to K5 students who are already in school 7 hours a day helping? We should all keep on complaining and looking for solutions until we achieve the goal of excellent education for all in public schools while still allowing kids to be kids..

    February 11th, 2010 at 2:08 pm
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  4. Teach1 says:

    Over the past year and a half I have taken some time to reflect upon how this profession has changed in the 9 years that I have been an elementary school teacher. Teaching used to be games, activities, glitter, singing and paint. Now it is about fitting in two math lessons, four reading lessons and doing the many jobs a teacher has to do. For me that is also parenting. Unfortunately, my students do not have parents that serve as good role models and often the job is left to me to do, being that I am the only consistent adult figure in many of their lives. I never understood teacher burn out until now. I look forward to days off because it is one less day of figuring out how I am going to teach first graders how to subtract and borrow..(Are you kidding me?) and it is one less day to feel like an absolute failure because the student who has no books at home, and parents who don’t speak any English is not reading at grade level and their test scores are going to make or break you for getting rehired next year. I think that people need to take a step back and remember that we did not learn how to perform magic in college. We did not go to school to parent children as well as teach them, and we did not go into this profession to make money, but to make a difference. All of the great things that teaching used to be are slowly going to the wayside, The fun and excitement of bringing knowledge and amazement to the lives of young children is replaced by work that is not at their level ( knowing how to add to the thousands place with carrying…..) and squeezing blood from stones. Instead of judging the profession and the lack of work and drive teachers have, the powers that be need to join us in the trenches and see what it is like….I don’t think they would last for a day….and nor would many of the parents who like to criticize us for what we do and “don’t” do.

    February 15th, 2010 at 7:12 pm
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  5. K says:

    Oh woe are the teachers in this.

    If this is the sad pathetic state of educations – we should be crying out for change. I certainly am.

    The best solution for my gifted kid shouldn’t have to be homeschool – because how many kids that could grow up to change the world will slip through the cracks?

    Where is the public outcry people?

    February 16th, 2010 at 10:38 am
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  6. conceredcitizen says:

    No, children should not have to be homeschooled gifted, special education, whatever the need is. Teachers need support from parents too. Reach out to your local colleges producing these teachers and to your Board of Ed and push for change. Work together to make a change rather than working against the teachers. Teaching is a hard job, and if you have not done it everyday then Woe is the teacher is very judgemental.

    February 16th, 2010 at 1:56 pm
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  7. K says:

    Woe the teacher is already a professor – teaching every day.

    I know how hard it is – but, to throw up your hands as a teacher is a bad thing. And children pay the price.

    February 16th, 2010 at 3:31 pm
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  8. tracey says:

    It definitely IS a privilege that my family can scrape by on my husband’s salary so that I can homeschool my 3 children. And it shouldn’t be a privilege that is denied to children simply because of their family’s social or financial status or because of the make-up of the family unit. However, if more people were encouraged to homeschool and given information on how to enrich their children’s lives through homeschooling, the sheer numbers of children that are enrolled in public schools would lessen, making the classrooms less crowded. If they combined that with DIScouraging homework of the “worksheet” variety and simply providing hands-on life experiences for families to experience at home, perhaps the enrichment that they aren’t getting at public school wouldn’t be missed as much? And what is so wrong with hatching eggs, growing gardens and free-thinking days in public school?

    One of the biggest changes I feel needs to happen is to separate out the kids based on abilities. Not for all-day, or in an exclusive type of way, but in a way to ENCOURAGE each child to do their best. So that each child CAN be the best in their own level and at their own pace.

    All the above said, I think parents need to remember that at least we live in a country where education is a REQUIREMENT and not a privilege. Your child’s education may not be as stellar as you know it should be, but to the millions of uneducated and illiterate people around the world, it is nothing short of AMAZING…

    February 16th, 2010 at 11:41 pm
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  9. April says:

    @Teach1,
    I’m trying to figure out from your comment what part of the job of parenting that you’re doing. You talked about teaching children how to subtract, and how to read and write at a grade level, but you talk about it in a way that implied that you feel parents should be doing this.
    If that’s what you mean, then the disconnect is far greater than I previously thought. As a parent, I really do think those things are more of a teacher’s job, with as much parent support as possible, of course.
    I’m also trying to understand where you feel this post and these comments are criticizing teachers. I don’t really see any teacher-bashing here, just opinions on the state of our education system.
    @tracey, while there are certainly a lot of people who don’t have access to what we have here, compared to other industrialized nations, the U.S. is woefully behind. I’m not here to “bash” our system, but to find out what we can do better. To point out problems is not because we dislike it, but because we want it to be the BEST education anywhere in the world!!

    February 18th, 2010 at 6:08 pm
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  10. Disillusioned says:

    Teach1- I often hear this lament from teachers (that they are parenting as well as teaching). When you are in an environment for seven hours a day without any other adults, of course you will probably be a surrogate parent (I assume this goes with the job). However, your conclusion that no one else is parenting after school hours is a bit much. Many parents are working and doing the best they can for their children at home. What exactly do you expect from parents when they are not in the classroom?

    We are not criticizing all teachers and honestly, I do think I would last a day in the job. Moreover, even if I couldn’t, why does this preclude me from having an opinion about your profession? I am not a surgeon and probably couldn’t last a day in that profession. However, I am still entitled to comment on the state of American health care (a whole other discussion).

    February 19th, 2010 at 12:20 am
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  11. Disillusioned says:

    Teach1- A few more thoughts…..you state that parents should “join you in the trenches.” By extending the school day with homework, telling parents to teach it themselves or get a tutor, go make a musical instrument, travel journal, and picture cards in Kindegarten, go make another travel journal, teddy bear journal, and book report every week in first grade, go make a video of their child as a famous person, go make a resume of what your child wants to be when they grow up, go make a paper mache’ of a jungle animal, go do a book summary every night in second grade, go make a dioarama for a book report, go make another musical instrument, go get supplies to build an Indian village in the classroom in third grade, go build an Indian fort, go do a book report again every night, go get supplies to do a science project in the classroom in fourth grade, and….. go fill out a book log every night and initial it; I would pretty much say we are “joining you in the trenches.” Again, I think the educrats who dreamed all of this up should be the ones thrown into trenches! (Just kidding.)

    February 20th, 2010 at 4:20 pm
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  12. Steve D says:

    Well, one of a parents most important responsibilities is to educate their children. Teach1 has a point – not so much about teachers parenting but about parents who will not take responsibility for their children’s education.

    The best possible teacher for the child is his/her parents because no one and I mean no one other than the child himself has such a great stake in this than the parents.

    You can’t home school – yet that is the way young children have been taught since humans have existed. I can understand that, my wife and I work 40 hours plus per week and we can’t either – but we live in a small house so our son can go to private school and I supplement that (informally) every day with my own teaching just as much as I am able. I pay very close attention to what he is learning, correcting and helping where I can. I visit the classroom regularly, give demos to his and other classes (I am a scientist) and regularly talk to the teachers.

    Even if you absolutely can’t afford private school you must Pay Attention and that means not just following the proscriptions of the teachers, that means putting as much of your self including your thinking into this as possible. If you are not able or not willing to do this then it seems to me we can make the same conclusion as we would if you were not able or willing to feed your child.

    “Your child’s edu­ca­tion may not be as stel­lar as you know it should be, but to the mil­lions of une­d­u­cated and illit­er­ate peo­ple around the world, it is noth­ing short of AMAZING…”

    Ah, I disagree with this statement. Many of those uneducated and illiterate people live in America and the level of literacy was much higher before compulsory public education. Education is not a requirement in America. Of course schooling is a requirement but that’s definitely a horse of a different color.

    I mostly agree with the comments on homework. I limit my son’s homework to 30 min/day (he is in Gr 3) and I’ve told the teacher that is the maximum, occasional special projects aside. He is in school 7.5 hours/day 9 months a year for 13 years. How can that not be enough time for a basic education?

    February 22nd, 2010 at 8:01 pm
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  13. Anonymous says:

    keep fighting for the rid of homework

    March 24th, 2010 at 4:56 am
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  14. Lynda says:

    BS low – rtaionlaity high! Really good answer!

    December 18th, 2011 at 11:20 pm
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