Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Responses to my letter to Dr. Goin

A week ago, I wrote and sent a letter to my superintendent about the issues we face daily as teachers.  To this day, the post has had 88 views.  I've received nothing but positive feedback from teachers and others who have read the post.

Later that same morning, I received a response from Dr. Goin.  I won't publish his letter here because I don't have his permission.  But I feel it is important to say that the letter left me feeling empty and agitated even further.

Day after day, month after month, and year after year, I see teachers losing faith.  They are losing faith in the system, in their schools, and in themselves.  We attend professional development, look for solutions on our own, and ask for help from our colleagues and administrators.  We are at the end of our rope.  Seasoned teachers and new teachers are out of tricks, out of answers.  Nothing seems to work anymore.

Maybe no one has the answer.  Parents don't seem to have the answer.  They just shake their heads and say they don't know what to do with their children.

What has happened?  Are we so overwhelmed in our daily lives that we don't have the time to devote to parenting?  I think that is definitely a factor.  Each day, as I sit until at least 6:00pm working my second job as the afternoon daycare director at our onsite daycare, I see parent after parent coming in, thoroughly worn out.  To be honest, about one fourth of those coming in to pick up children are actually grandparents who thought their job of raising children was done.  These parents/grandparents come dragging in, always happy to see the children, but obviously too tired to go home and spend quality time, help with homework, and make sure the kids get a nutritious meal.

There are those parents who have meeting after meeting about their child.  These meetings are basically a repeat of previous meetings.  The child doesn't do his homework, she is constantly tardy or absent, he sits and does nothing in class all day.  At the end of each meeting the parents shake their heads, completely lost as to what to do.  The teachers, counselors, and administrators give them a tool box full of tools to help them.  That tool box goes home and gets lost or is forgotten, and the problem continues....year after year after year.

Some parents really want to do a good job as a parent but don't have the time or support to be the kind of parent they would like.  They are struggling to keep the lights on and have to work an evening job, so they can't be home to feed their kids or help them with homework.  Some of them didn't have good parenting role models and are simply doing the best they can, which isn't very good.  Then there are those that simply don't care.  Everything is the teacher's fault.  Their child would never do anything wrong at school.  There are elementary kids raising their younger siblings, doing the best they can.  School is the least of their worries.

Are the teachers at fault?  Every teacher I know spends hours at home or after school grading papers, preparing lesson plans, making phone calls home.  Our planning periods get filled with meetings and collaborations on how to help our students achieve.  Many times our lunches are spent in the classroom with students who had to miss their recess due to behavior problems or needed to come in for extra help.  We have duties before or after school and serve on committees.  We spend our days dealing with discipline issues and trying to prepare students for the test...students whose abilities range from that of a first grader to that of a 7th grader.  There isn't a teacher I know who doesn't work his or her ass off to help these kids be successful.

Our educational system is failing.  If it fails, we, as a nation, fail.  Maybe if we would hold our scholars in higher esteem than our athletes and entertainers, we might see success again.  In my opinion, our duty as parents and educators is to prepare our children to be successful, productive members of society.  With that, my hope is that they do so by doing something they love and are passionate about.  The way our schools are being run now, there is very little hope of these kids ever being productive members of society.  They are not getting the skills they need to be successful.  The kids who might have a chance at something in life are the ones now who are getting left behind because they sit in class while the teacher deals with all of the other issues of the day.

I feel that we need a massive overhaul of our schools.  Our kids are very different from the way we were when we grew up.  Their lives are very different.  The world is very different.  So why are we operating from  basically the same system as when I was in elementary school 35-40 years ago?  It doesn't make any sense.

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