I used to be a good teacher.
I work hard, don't get me wrong. I have done everything I am supposed to do and more. I give individual help when needed, I create programs to give after school help, I even give out my home phone number just in case students don't have anyone at home to help them. It's just that I don't get through to students anymore. I can't convince them any longer that education is the key to success and can make a difference in their lives, no matter how disadvantaged they think they are.
I have always tried to use myself as an example of what you can do with your life, no matter what your background is. I grew up poor, an abused child, and I still managed to graduate from high school with honors, get into college, finance a four-year education, and become a professional.
My story used to work. It used to inspire. Now, for some reason, many students accuse me of bragging. They do not believe that success can come to them. They think that I am somehow waving my success in front of their faces to show them what they can't have. The crazy thing is that these kids, generally poor, have every advantage when it comes to getting grants and scholarships. There is no reason they can't go to college and accomplish what I have except that they choose not to take an active role in their own education. It literally drives me crazy to watch them throw away their lives at age 14.
I'd like to blame rap music. I'd like to blame any scapegoat that sends the message that performing well in school is bad. Heck, I'd take the blame myself if I hadn't been busting my rear end for the past 20 years. Public education is under attack from all sides. No Child Left Behind is a thinly-veiled assault. The administration created mandates supposedly to enforce accountability for teachers, but underfunded it to the tune of $56 billion. That basically means that we can't even do what we were doing before because we have to take money away from the insufficient existing programs to increase spending on testing. That's the testing that shows that what we are doing is insufficient and needs to be changed. When you think about it, the basic assumption of the law already says this, doesn't it? So, on one hand the administration has created budget shortfalls in public education with one hand, and doles out money to support private school vouchers with the other. If they think private schools are the answer, more power to them. I'd like to see what these private schools would do with the student in this story from yesterday:
Every teacher, at some point, says that kids behave worse than they used to. My turn came yesterday when I politely asked a student to be quiet and he called me a "cocksucker." I told him quietly to go to the office and wrote him a disciplinary referral and went about my teaching, but it bothered me all day. I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, no student would have dared to do something like that at age 14. I can't even imagine what would have happened. I guarantee it would have been more severe than what's going to happen to this young man. This incident is symptomatic of the complete breakdown in discipline. Why is this happening? Because not only are test scores being tracked, but the number of suspensions is being scrutinized like never before. I wonder if this will still happen when the schools are privatized. I'm willing to bet that no private school teacher will have to suffer an insult like that more than once. I wish those teachers well, whoever they turn out to be.