Friday, February 4, 2011

On Public Education

I know bad teachers exist and they are definitely out there. There are also personality conflicts at times between teachers and students. I had an art teacher in junior high school who just didn't like me. Not really sure why, but she was mean to me. However, I didn't act very well in her class, which just created more of a problem. At one point, I complained loudly to my parents and they called a meeting with her, in which I meekly sat, realizing as they talked how very in the wrong I had been as well. My parents were disappointed in me for acting like I had and I realized that I had contributed to the problem.

There are some teachers out there who really shouldn't be teachers. Teachers who don't try and help struggling students. Teachers who are overly critical or unsympathetic. Teachers who do the very least they possibly can to get by in their jobs and then wonder why all their students are hating school and doing poorly.

But, I taught in public school.

Let me tell you one big thing about that.

Parents are a big part of the problem. They want someone to blame for their problems, so they blame the schools.

Most of the teachers I knew did the best that they could. They stayed late hours and worked hard. They spent lots of their own money on activities and supplies for their classes. They really cared about the students. The teachers that my children have had so far have been these kind of teachers. Are they perfect? No. Do they sometimes miss struggles or don't know how to handle something going on with my child? Yes. They are mortal, like me. I don't always catch something going on with my child, and I live with them! I have four children that I'm dealing with and I miss things, and these teachers have 30+ students that they have to keep a close watch on.

But teachers are up against a lot. They can't discipline properly because parents would complain and do complain. If the child has a problem with an academic area, parents are quick to blame the teacher for the child's inabilities rather than allowing the teacher to do some interventions to help the child. Often, parents just expect that teachers will solve all their problems without doing anything from the home end. Now, I'm not saying ALL parents do this, and it's highly probable that you readers are among the parents who are highly involved in your child's education and do all you can to help the schools succeed.

I've found though, that there are many times when I feel that something isn't going right and I complain before I've done anything about it. Then I go in to talk to the teacher and find that there's way more to the story than what I'm getting at home. And then after, the communication has happened, things improve.

I have a few examples from my own experiences as a teacher. I had a boy in my second grade class who didn't even know the letters and sounds. By second grade, most children should be reading at basic level, and most are above that. But not knowing the letter sounds is something that should have been addressed in kindergarten. So I talked to the reading specialist about the problem and she said she wanted to see him for testing. I needed to get the parents' permission to have him tested. I sent the form home for the mom to sign and after a week of it not being returned, I called. I thought maybe it had been missed, and that she would give her permission, etc. Instead, I got an earful about how I was the worst **** teacher on the planet and if I was a better teacher, I could teach him to read, no problem. She didn't acknowledge the fact that what I was seeing was linked to a learning disability and when I suggested it, she was highly offended. In the end, we did nothing. We held the student back in second grade and I moved to teach in another district. I have no idea what became of that child.

Another example is from that same class. Another boy came in a month or two after school started. He had some serious home problems. His mom was single, dad was in prison, and after getting into a fight with his mom, she sent him to live with his grandma, which was why he was at our school. He had a lot of attitude and anger; according to his short school record, he had been kicked out of two other schools for fighting. He was a behavioral challenge for me and I was constantly stressing out about how to manage his issues and still teach the rest of the class. I had ZERO support from the grandmother when it came to his behavioral problems. He even once tried to run away during the school day, and I had several people helping me chase him down and bring him back to class. About two months before the school year ended, when I finally felt I was making some progress with him, his grandmother came over to the school and confronted the principal, saying that he was being treated unfairly in class because he was black. I was blown away. I had tried everything I could possibly think of, even gleaning help and support from other teachers on how to help this child. I taught several lessons in class on loving one another, turning the other cheek, and the Golden Rule to try and help the other students be more accepting of him and hopefully to reach him somewhere inside. I had even spent time on my knees at home counseling with my Heavenly Father about how to reach this boy. The next day, he was withdrawn from our school and I never saw him again.

The point I'm trying to make is that there are a LOT of teachers out there who really are doing the best they know how. Sometimes the biggest problem in a child's success, or lack thereof, is failed communication between the teacher and the parent. A lot of times, the parents are uncooperative and unwilling to recognize that their child might have issues that need to be addressed and just want to blame someone.

One thing I really hate is hearing someone going off on a teacher and then ranting that they need to put their child in a charter school or just home school them before they've properly addressed the problem. How does that teach the child to deal with a problem? It teaches them to run away and not face their problems head-on. And often, it is not the school that is at fault. Sometimes changing to another teacher who is more willing to work with you is the solution to the problem, as I admit that some teachers don't do a whole lot to help.

Try seeing it from the teacher's perspective. They often have 30+ kids to deal with. In today's world, many of these kids are coming in with serious emotional baggage--abuse, parents in prison, split homes, step-parents, neglect, and even just absent parents who work too much. These kids are dealing with a lot, which affects their behavior and their schoolwork. And the teacher is only with them 6-7 hours a day. Since there are so many students too, the teachers are overworked. Aside from having papers to grade and lessons to plan and prep work to do, they don't get paid very well and they also have to deal with all these emotional problems that the children bring to school. They carry a lot of weight.

Teaching in the public schools is hard. But the public schools can still be great schools if everyone pulls together for the benefit of the students.

4 comments:

swedemom said...

Well written, Jenna. I completely agree.

Royalbird said...

I guess I should add that I just like to give the teachers the benefit of the doubt first before I decide they're not a good teacher.

Devin & Ruthann said...

Parents are a huge part of the problem. I've learned this from Devin teaching. He puts in so much time only to have his hard work unsupported by his students' home life. It's sad.

Becky said...

Can I give you a woot woot and a wahoo for this post? It drives me crazy to hear parents complain about their school, blah blah blah when and hour of observation of the family tells you the problem is with the family, not the school. You have said in this post what I would LOVE to say on FB :)

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