It amazes me every year how many children attend public schools and how many parents are willing to enroll them in these institutions. Public education costs Americans about 600 billion dollars every year. I became a teacher because I enjoy children and wanted to make a difference in the next generation. Learning has always been enjoyable for me. Naturally, I wanted it to be enjoyable for the students that I had the privilege to teach. Teaching is a privilege. My first year of teaching, I taught 7th grade Life Science. It was a lot of work, but the labs were great. Many of my students expressed to me how much they enjoyed my class. I was honored at the end of the year when one of my top students told me that I was his favorite Science teacher ever. He gave me a thoughtful gift. Another student asked me to be her chaperone when she won a prize for a school fund-raiser. I was stunningly humbled by her request. Middle School didn’t have the bureaucracy in Science that I would face in elementary school. At the end of that first year, some mean kids in my class threatened me. I asked for help from my principal and assistant principal, but neither gave me much support. I was offered an elementary school position near home. I would be teaching 5th grade. Fifth grade is a big year. There were lots of concepts to teach. The teachers at my grade level were hard-working and we made a great team. Similar to middle school, I had large classes. During English I had 38 students in my class. I tried to meet the needs of all my students, but sadly could not. Students slipped through the cracks who should have had help with reading. That really bothered me. At the end of the year, I learned that my students would be taking a state standards test. The other teachers didn’t tell me, so I taught the curriculum and didn’t teach to the test. My Title I school and students performed low, but at about the same level as the other 5th graders. Time went on and more programs were added to my already busy day filled with teaching, planning, grading, parent conferences, and duties. The veteran teacher on my grade level assured me that the new program would come and go in a few years and not to be upset by it. He was right–millions of dollars later, after lots of training to use the new programs, they came and went. I was taught that the goal of education is to educate each child individually. I actually tried to do this and realized that it was impossible in the public school. Students are put into a large class and expected to learn and master the same material at the same rate. Each child is different. One year, I taught a 4/5 combination class. I had students reading from Pre-K to 9th grade. That was quite a challenge. I made it through, but was exhausted. Slowly, I began to burn out. I began to realize that I could meet with parent after parent and plead with them about the importance of education, but the choice would be theirs. On state testing day, I had a student show up with green hair. Getting children to enjoy the learning process presented many challenges. Every year I had a handful that were with me. They had parents who cared for the most part, but sometimes there were exceptions. My administration put more and more pressure on the test results. Teaching was not fun anymore when I would sit through staff meetings and be beat up by the test results. It wasn’t just me, most teachers felt that pressure. I took it personally, but I shouldn’t have. I did my part as a teacher. Parents need to do their part and students have their share of the responsibility to learn. Some of the teachers I worked with were fabulous educators. Near the end of my career in the classroom, teaching became more ridiculous. I had to do what I was told and was held accountable by my administrator. The methods that I was told to use didn’t work. It didn’t matter. I had to keep a journal on my desk for administrative comments to be made while observing my lesson. All teachers on the grade level had to be on the same page of the text. My superintendent was informed about my frustrations and kindly invited me to his office for a chat. He told me that he was more of a figure-head and that his hands were tied by the school board and the state. It was during this meeting that I realized that my problems with public education were too big to fix. In my opinion, the problems have gotten worse with federalized programs. Students lament to me about their woes in large classrooms, waiting to be taught because the teacher has so much bureaucracy to deal with. Teaching outside of the public school has given me the freedom to educate effectively.
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