This is one teacher who is fed up.
Failing schools, failing teachers, failing students – everywhere I go I am constantly barraged by comments from the community, in magazines, newspapers, and even radio talk shows. It seems that public education is such a complete and utter failure that parents should move their students to better performing schools immediately or, better yet, enroll them in private schools or charter schools better equipped to teach today's student.
In fact, let's take away more money from public schools and vote in vouchers, so students can go to elite private schools while sounding the death knell for public education.
You will have to pardon my rant, but I am tired – tired of all the negative comments and criticism, tired of being labeled a failure, tired of being told I teach at a failing school, tired of being placed on probation by the state, tired of walking around with a cloud over my head, tired of trying to justify why I support public schools.
Most of all, I am tired of my students being labeled as failures.
The emphasis the past several years has been focused on No Child Left Behind. I see nothing wrong with accountability. As teachers, parents and students, we should be accountable for our performance, but the deck should not be stacked against students before they even begin. State guidelines are strangling students – they set them up for failure before they even start school.
Foreign countries' school systems are put up as examples of success, but I don't know of very many American students who are fleeing their country to receive a public education overseas. Public education is free and open to all. People come here from all over to take advantage of it.
I happen to have students from all over the world who come here seeking a better life. Their parents have chosen to leave everything behind so that their children might have the opportunities their home countries did not offer. I have students in my classroom from Afghanistan, Myanmar, Vietnam, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and more. They are wonderful students.
More than 20 languages are spoken at North Side. But when students start public school, they are required to be tested on ISTEP+ in a language with which they are unfamiliar and writing conventions they have not conquered. Students in special education are also tested on writing and nuances of language that they have not mastered. All students' scores are lumped together in cookie-cutter fashion relying on the assumption that all children learn at the same rate and are at the same level of preparation. Students come to North Side from every aspect of society; some are ready to learn, others will take longer, and some never realize the value of education until school days are long over. North Side opens the door to all. It boasts a diverse population where administration, teachers, support staff and students celebrate all aspects of diversity.
The challenges of education today are enormous. Let me tell you what I, as a veteran Fort Wayne Community Schools public school teacher, think of success in the classroom. I know that each and every student will walk out of my classroom better educated than when they walked in. I challenge them with new ideas, critical thinking and developing themselves into clear, objective writers. Is everyone in my classroom achieving this? No. Do I consider them failures if they don't? No!
The students I teach are the first to volunteer when there is a need, donate blood for blood drives, pitch in to clean the neighborhood and give to the needy even though many are needy themselves. Eventually, most of them will be positive influences in their neighborhoods and excellent, kind and compassionate members of society.
There are so many negatives published about schools that no one seems to notice the positives.
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