This is our season

To everything thing, there is a season….

There are very few remnants left of the life I had as a public school teacher of the 80’s forward. I recall the luxury of time to have lunch outside of school, of benefits that were so wonderful that when I had two babies by C-Section we didn’t pay a penny. My insurance co-pay for any medications was $2.00! My pension was being front loaded and there were wonderful fun times with students and faculties.

Throughout the 80’s, we adopted whole language for reading and language arts. The touchy-feely 70’s material began to fade. It seemed like the fluctuations in how rigorous the curriculum was, was directly related to whomever was holding the purse strings in the government. Programs were hot or not, depending on the year.

The 90’s forward introduced the MEAP test. In the beginning of administering this test, we used results as a way to fine tune our instruction. It was a tool that we appreciated. The next decade, when the Michigan Merit Exam was mandated, many teachers felt their wings of creativity had been clipped.

It is an undermining feeling to have to prove your worth by how your students perform on a test.

Pressure like this, right out of the box for new hires, is enough for them to seek a job elsewhere. These new teachers are expected to produce just as strongly as the seasoned ones. I don’t know any other profession, except sports, where a job is so competitive, mainly just to please the mandates.

This is almost laughable since no one teacher has the same makeup of students in their classrooms.

Believe me, there are good years and there are great years, but the amount of work that goes into a so-so year to make it a “good” year can be exhausting.

Reading the newspaper this morning, articles on schools seemed so negative. I see that the State Board has taken over an area school…again.

Turn the page and a letter to the editor from a concerned citizen says why? Why is this troubled district still troubled?

There is also a piece on a teacher who is on paid leave while the case against them for inappropriate conduct with a minor is decided. We have a new governor who claims to be a proponent of public schools. I think she has the tenacity to handle these problems. But they are many.

We have an Education Director who proposes cutting public school aid to the quick in favor of dividing the funds into private, charter, public. But is it all about money? How to get federal support?

Our profession has always required flexibility.

We operate, often, with an unknown future.

When I was bumped into a classroom after 5 years of teaching elementary physical education, I had no idea how to function. I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. How can I do this job? Tenure used to mean that whatever you had in your credentials, could be used to help you keep your job by bumping someone else. We called it the "Spring Scramble". Who will go where next year?

My one question is this: How did public education get behind this 8 ball? Sure, now we have teachers who must be highly qualified to teach in the subject area they are assigned. . Experts? Probably not but it isn't about content is it? You have to start somewhere.

We have the brightest minds in the country in our schools, yet no one wants to commit too long to be the guide or facilitator...either for themselves or for the students they teach... It is too much of a hassle. No "perks" like the tech jobs with keg-er-ators on site or Thirsty Thursday days ending early to mingle with work mates.. The Education focus has not changed much to be more more accommodating. And this can be a downright turn off.

.We have fought for and lost support for our teachers little by little until today, At this point in time, there is a palpable shortage across the United States.

We ask the question: Where have all the teachers gone?

Believe it or not, there are some wonderful candidates in the upcoming ranks. Like newly sprung flowers, they must be nurtured and given a chance to take root. They require a seasoned gardener with mulch and fertilizer (the good kind) to keep them reaching for the sun. To watch them wilt is a crime against all that is good.

What to do?

Support their valuable work.

Value trades and the choice of career over college.

Champion their success just as strongly as we value the students' success.

We can’t go back.

But…we can go forward and make Education be the “thing” that students are wanting as a career.

Our workshop on March 30 is free for early career educators and features two very different speakers from the good old days and the good new days.

Spread the word.

Thanks for listening.

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