A lot of turmoil is about to ensue between legislators and school districts, between administration boards and teachers, and quite likely between parents and students. Every one of these individuals I’ve mentioned has been a student in a school at some point in his or her life. It is safe to assume that most of them, as professionals in some field, have been in school for longer than 12 years. But I’m here to tell you that that doesn’t make you an expert in education. It certainly gives you a perspective on it, but it doesn’t make you understand what a teacher is responsible for day in and day out. In the same light, it can’t make you understand what is required of students day in and day out with the new expectations of testing and new stipulations that dump students of all types into one bunch.
Then, we put the teachers and students, low morale and all, together. The teachers who have had more added to their plates: teach to the standards, teach to the tests, teach all kinds of students in one day and one class, teach for a salary far below the standard salary in the private sector for the same education and experience, teach because you love kids, stay after school but still be prepared to teach tomorrow, and smile about it even when no one is supporting you. In fact they may be fighting to take it all away when you’re not looking.
The students who are far different from the classmates you remember: students with one parent or none, students who take care of their siblings at night only to have no one to put breakfast on the table in the morning, students who come to school angry and take it out on the student who didn’t deserve it, students whose parents don’t value education sitting next to students who do and try to learn in the same classroom, students who do it all and students who do nothing. This setting creates a lot more frustration than it does success.
When you find yourself wishing in June that you were a teacher with summers off, like you remember as a fifth grader going home to ride your bike all afternoon to the corner 7-11 for a soft drink, visit your neighborhood school sometime that following winter for 3 days and shadow a teacher or follow a student schedule. Not just 1 day–3. So that you see the true routines, the real attitudes, the unexpected issues that arise that are so different from what you see at your desk when you can walk to the restroom when you need a mental break from your computer or chat with a co-worker when you have a problem or want to collaborate on a task.
You’ll find there is a lot more to learn in kindergarten than you had to experience. And, I hope you’ll thank a teacher for it.