I was a teacher for 15 years. I taught in America’s public school system for 10 and for a private non-profit college for 5. I love teachers. I respect teachers. What teachers do is noble.
I loved teaching, I loved my students, I loved the classroom and the exchange of ideas and the growth and the development and the progress I witnessed.
I was voted favorite teacher year after year. I always scored high marks on my teacher evaluations.
But today, despite all these wonderful things, I no longer teach in a school.
Like so many other great teachers, I left the system to pursue other passions.
For anyone who has not been inside a school since they themselves were students, it is very eye-opening to spend a day with a student. While some things have changed, https://miracleshome.org/ like technology and the use of white boards vs. chalk boards, the way school works is pretty close to the way it has worked since the turn of the 20th century.
The system built on a factory model of mass production. The system that dictates what teachers can and cannot teach. The system that pushes kids along a trajectory toward…what?
The problem is, as Sir Ken Robinson says in a recent video, “Educating young people is not like making motor cars.”
Forcing kids to be something they are not or not ready to be yet.
What gardeners know…if the conditions are right, plants grow.
If the conditions aren’t right, plants will not grow.
The system is failing. It was beyond me to fix it. And too many kids are not growing in the way they could if they were watered and fertilized accordingly.
So great teachers are leaving the system every single year. Kids, then, are left with average to sub-standard teachers who don’t care about the kids or what they do, but because of tenure’s rules, are allowed to stay in the classroom regardless. Indeed, it is very difficult to get rid of a bad teacher because of the tangle of bureaucracy that exists within the system.
This was another thing about teaching that bothered me tremendously. Teacher compensation is totally skewed in favor of length of service, aka “seat time.” Lousy teachers who have been around for years yet do nothing to make the educational experience terrific are paid more than new enthusiastic teachers who connect with their students and make learning fun. I saw it countless times and it made me sick to know that no matter how hard I worked, my salary was what the state deemed “appropriate” for my level of experience based on the number of years I had been in the classroom.
Major changes have to happen in order for great teachers to be convinced to stay in the system. Until those changes happen, the mass exodus of excellent educators will continue, leaving behind mediocre school experiences for our children.