Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Rage Against the Establishment

Dear Secret Blogiary,

Now, maybe I have been jaded by my years as a teacher to the most destructive, vicious, deceitful, heartless age group imaginable: 8th graders. Maybe years of trying to understand a group of people (though I really use that term loosely as it is my theory that teenagers are not people) for whom disrespect and defiance are second first nature that has caused my heart to cool and harden. But it is now as the summer thrashes about in a death throe, and I have to contemplate returning to the classroom, I realize that going back is something I have come to dread.

It didn’t start out like that, my first years as a teacher I eagerly looked forward to the start of a new year. Of the smell of freshly sharpened number 2 pencils, compositions creaking open for the first time, decorating my room, planning lessons and reviewing data…I joyously embraced all of it. But then I started to notice under the shiny veneer of a new year, was a system of catering to state tests, a system that had moved away from tried and true methods of teaching and embraced a crunchy granola, holistic, “love the child and it will learn” method of teaching.

Slowly, teaching became synonymous with “entertainment.” How many training sessions did I sit through listening to some grand new plan where teachers need to “hook” the students into the lesson, to justify and reason why they needed to learn the lesson? They are uncountable. Like a marching army drumming out orders and “programming” the teachers we heard the steady mandate that not only must all students pass, but they must all go to college, the cry that socio-economic background has no effect on a student’s ability to learn, the importance of a single test.

It breaks my heart. It makes me cold. It goes against everything that I believe in.
I believe that every child can learn IF they want to. I can give the information to every student, but I cannot force a student to learn. I cannot hold their pencil and write for them. If a student takes no responsibility in his education, than I cannot be held accountable for the consequences.

I believe that parents need to take responsibility for their children. I have kids, I make sure that they are fed, clothed and loved. I make sure that they know I care. I check their homework every night and I involve myself with their school and their lives. I know who they hang out with. I know where they are at all times. I make sure they understand the importance of choice and responsibility.

I believe that a public education should be free, unless you screw up. If a student is constantly in trouble or disruptive then he should be removed from the class, permanently. It is not fair for the other students in the class to suffer. Therefore, if a student receives a set number of referrals then they need to be removed from public education and either home schooled or sent to private school at the parent's expense.

I believe that up until 11th grade, most of the information learned in school consists of background knowledge needed to lay the foundation of a lifetime of learning. Without background information a student cannot begin to critically think or reason. A classic education, a return to memorization of basic rules of language and facts and figures as well as a solid background in literary culture is the foundation of all higher learning. A student cannot be expected to critically think about Shakespeare unless they understand language, time period and history. It is that simple.

I believe that working under the presumption that every child must go to college is ruining our country. Where have our jobs gone? America has moved from a nation of builders and doers to a nation of service. Most Americans are employed in a service industry while so many jobs are sent overseas or given to illegal migrant workers. Let me say this loud and clear: Not every person is cut out college. Not every person will make it on Wall Street or play for an NFL team. We need to bring back to our schools Vo-Tec programs where students can get actually training that will be useful to them. Or at least how about a life skills class that teaches them how to balance a checkbook or fill out an application?

I believe that without electives, students will stagnate. Learning how to critically think will be useless unless they have something to critically think about. The electives at my school: Gym, Art, Music. No second languages, no home economics, no choir or band, no shop… nothing. Three electives = three teachers. Three teachers who service over 1000 students. You can’t teach art when you have 60-70 kids per class. The kids don’t learn anything at Gym, there are no units, no games; they walk the track once a week and either sit around with friends or play a makeshift game of basketball the rest of the time.

And finally, I believe that is is not the educational system that needs to change, it is society. It is the materialistic, backstabbing, gansta-rap, sex and violence society that needs to change. If it is true that children rebel against their parents then one generation must rebel against the prior. Maybe having a Puritan society for a while would be a good thing or maybe the Victorians had it right. But what I know is that the more "advanced" we are, the more society has declined.

All these issues rage through my mind. I do not want to return to the classroom. My students deserve more than a teacher who is bitter and uninspired. Unfortunately, financially, I have no choice, with the economy still tanked, I need to live and support myself. So how do I work up enough motivation and energy to face the coming year? I think that I answered my self up above: A return to a classic education. If I can merge the district’s “learning schedule” with a basic fundamental curriculum, maybe I can do my part for the future.


  1. I totally understand your rage and frustration. And I agree that parents should be more involved with their children’s education and teach them to be disciplined at all times. I’m acquainted with one of the members of our state school board here in Alabama who would say “amen” to everything you’ve written in this post, and my younger daughter, who taught school until she couldn’t take it any longer, would also.

    I believe everyone would be better off if the federal government had stayed out of education and left that up to the states to supervise.

  2. Thanks for the comment. It is nice to know that I am not the only voice of sanity in the public education circus! If I could afford it, I would have walked away a long time ago!