Thursday, December 24, 2009

At Peace

This is how I feel...

So blissful, content, and knowing...

That here is where I am meant to be.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Critical Hour

When I first started teaching I was overwhelmed, but joyous in my work with the children and the experience I was obtaining. Every year I learned more about the universe of education, and the direction we are rapidly approaching.

I am currently in my eighth year of teaching, and I am terrified.

* I am scared about our job security and the sheer volume of decreased funding.
* I am scared of the current teacher stress level and the impact it will have on teachers' health and longevity in the field of education.
* I am scared that we are pushing our kids too hard, and none of them will enjoy school or learning anymore.

Education has taken a turn that is sharp and dangerous. It is ravening in a direction that may put all of our hard work and goals off course. For two years my school district has not had enough money, so budgets were cut, and there has been a RIF (reduction in force). The forecast for next year is much worse. It is amazing to me that education is not important enough for adequate funding, but important enough to constantly raise expectations. Education is the future, and right now our future looks grim. On a side note, my state can not have unions, so basically any form of "uprising" could result in dismissal. This leaves our hands completely tied. Which leads me to teacher stress...

Teachers are so overwhelmed right now with school, district, state, and federal expectations that many doubt whether they can even handle the job anymore. More work and responsibility continues piling up, and sooner or later, it will cave in. My school district was quoted in the local paper (on the subject of teacher lap tops) as saying they are "a way to extend the school day without actually extending it". So basically, they can increase the workload for teachers, and not pay us any more or give us more time to complete the work. Good teachers are debating leaving the profession, and that would be a crime to everyone's children and their future.

Kids are being pushed and pushed far beyond their developmental age, in my opinion. The early grades have turned into a prep-school for the testing grades. We have to drill them, smother them in intervention, and beat knowledge into them to satisfy "adequate progress". I have high expectations for my students, and I give them my all every day...but what I am expected to be teaching them is not something I agree with. The lack of socialization during play is gone after kindergarten. Children may be progressing academically, but struggling in the social areas of development which is also critical. In my classroom, I am expected to teach them comprehension skills such as making inferences, when many of them are just starting to read. I believe that all of this pressure to make everyone succeed at the SAME rate will backfire, and children will lose their intrinsic desire and motivation to learn. Parents should also be concerned. Schools are expected to collect data, data, and more data on children. That word has now entered the same category as other four letter words. I do feel it is very important to analyze and test children's progress, but not when we are testing more than we are instructing. For example, it takes me two weeks of guided reading time to test their reading level. Since I have to do this four times a year, this is eight weeks out of a school year that your child is not receiving small group instruction in reading. So, what would you consider more important?

Some how, some way...teachers, parents, and other educational supporters need to start speaking out and against depriving schools of necessary funding, putting more stress and work on teachers without proper time to do it and compensation, and stealing the joy of education from young learners.