5/02/2016

Appreciate a Teacher Week


The art of creativity is often lost in education these days. So many teachers are forced to base their curriculum on testing scores to prove they are teaching up to par. Gone is the freedom to bring their own creativity to the lesson plans and expand on their own strengths into the classroom, their own individuality.

The one that suffers the most by this push by government is the children.  Too often in working families due to tough economic times, parents have scarce time to spend with their children. Therefore, much of the modeling and education of life’s lessons is falling on our educations, our underpaid overworked teachers who have to dip their own wallet to fund projects. And many times, there is no time for extra projects within a given school day because the demand to hit exceptional scores on standardized tests is ridiculously high. 

The result of this and lack of funding and stringent guidelines is causing premature retirement and teachers leaving the field. Even with heavy recruitment of teachers in many states, it is becoming a larger problem each year. With the demand unfulfilled, the credentials of qualified teachers in the classroom can and will go down unless this is changed. The Washington Post reported in 2015 that newer statistics are showing that 17% of teachers are leaving after only four years in the public system.  The number has now risen.

I was a substitute teacher for one quarter of college. I learned why, behind parenting it is considered, by many to be one of the most difficult jobs there is.  To name a few drawbacks: Low pay, long hours, unpaid hours, requires a second job in summer month, low pay increases, little respect, no real support, dealing with difficult children and difficult parents unwilling to provide assistance with their children, etc… 

Frequently administrative boards only want to address the issues that put them in a favorable light with the community and those they answer to above.  The nitty gritty of teachers roles in the classrooms are ignored more often than not. They get attention when there is a problem not when things go well. They are seldom given solutions and have to be resourceful with very little assistance, particularly in schools that need the most help. This is unacceptable and is causing the American school system to lag greatly behind other countries. Our democracy grants a free education but what benefit is this if the education is sub-par?  Again, this is not due to poor teachers.

The emphasis, in the past, was on learning basics of education and expanding on that criteria. It was on creating exciting innovative opportunities for applications of learned material or alternative ways of learning topics.  Subjects of particular interest to various students in a given classroom could be explored, for e.g. a child with a European background might lend itself to more time spent on an area in where they grew up. 

Those days are pretty much gone.  The same criteria are used universally at every school, every year. As a retired teacher told me recently, “I couldn’t wait to get out. Gone was the fun. In its place was me boring children with lesson after lesson of material to help them pass a test. I wondered how well they would actually be equipped to deal with the real world just because they performed well on a standardized test.”

This week, Teacher Appreciation Week, I urge everyone to take the time to do
something for teachers. It does not have to be much, a note to a teacher from your past, a tweet, a post, anything. Let teachers know you believe in the work they do.  Show a teacher always the respect they are due whether you have a child in the system or not.  Just like you let military personnel know you appreciate their services tell a teacher you appreciate their contribution to our youth.  Above all, support legislators and legislation that backs and funds education!  This type of directive needs to be our focus, to help the teachers in the classroom formulating the minds of tomorrow.  


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