Saturday, September 16, 2006

Eight down, 172 to go...

State law requires 180 days of school. A few years ago, the state agreed to give teachers a raise, then decided we had to earn it, and required two more days of us. Not the students, just teachers. So we spend an extra two days a year in classes. I don't think anyone minds, since we do get paid. But you know that three month paid vacation we get every summer? It doesn't exist. We are paid for 182 days, and the pay is divided into 12 payments, one per month.

Nevertheless, most people go into education because they care. Mind you, most of my experience has been with elementary ed, so I can't speak as firmly to secondary educators and their motives. Still, I believe that, overall, educators are people who care about the generations coming up, who one day will take over leadership. We care about helping children to become good citizens who build society. We care about teaching children to be responsible to one another and to our society as a whole. We care about teaching children to think and to search for answers; it makes more sense to teach a child how to research Columbus' trip, than to make him/her memorize the names of the ships (the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria).

In one of my schools, our "raw material" is inconsistent. Some come from two-parent families where both parents work, have cars and insurance and own their home. Some come from single-parent families where there is a strong emphasis on being at school and doing homework. Others come from families where there is a different dad in the home every few months. Some are on Welfare. Some move every three months or so, and in their records I find a relatively consistent record of past schools, the same ones. These students will move on, and eventually come back, only to move on again. Sometimes students tell me their parent/s drinks or does drugs. I have met parents who operated as prostitutes and even one or two who pimped their daughters out. The effort a parent puts into getting a child to school daily as a kindergartener is often an indication of whether that child will later drop out. There may be acting out by students in this school as they deal with the worries and inconsistencies in their lives.

In my other school, the majority of children live in nice homes whether in one or two parent families. Paychecks are consistent, and so are work hours. Parents can be reached by phone and come in to conference when there are problems. Unless said parent is in Iraq or Afghanistan. There may be acting out by these students as they deal with the worries and fears of their lives.

BUT we must build test scores. We are mandated by the No Child Left Behind to raise test scores. We can't be bothered dealing with these petty emotional details, because we MUST raise test scores. So we hire reading coaches and math coaches and instructional staff, most of whom work with teachers, not students, because we must teach the teachers to RAISE TEST SCORES. Never mind where the child comes from. Forget the fact that the child has fetal alcohol syndrome or a parent who is a meth addict or a parent who is dead in the war zone. WE MUST RAISE TEST SCORES. The ultimate goal of teaching is to RAISE TEST SCORES. And if we don't, by golly, WE WILL BE REPLACED.

6 comments:

Hliza said...

what a good job you're doing Gramma. It really makes me sad that teachers are the most underpaid proffession everywhere in the world. Why can't leaders see that these people are the ones who can shape our future generation? I owed it to so many teachers in my school days that make me who I am today. My salute goes to you too Gramma..

Hannelie said...

Gosh, and I want to be a teacher after all my uni studies! It's a shame that it's all about scores rather than the children. good on you for being there!
I enjoyed your post.

Gramma said...

Thanks to both of you, my friends. Education is a wonderful career, and satisfying in many ways, but it isn't one in which a person can expect a lot of gratitude. I smile, though, as I remember some wonderful teachers I had over the years, and who are, through me, continuing to influence children today.

Seeker said...

Thanks for being dedicated to the kids. That's a great focus! The little ones really need caring teachers.

Hannelie said...

Helloooooo, why so quietly busy? LOL
Hope you are well, we miss your posts!

Cassie said...

I was thinking that too. But with the start of the school year I know we'll be hearing less from Gramma.