Sunday, January 5, 2014

Frustrated Teacher in Maryland Resigns: "We have sacrificed wisdom and abandoned its fruits."

I posted last week on declining teacher morale across the country.  Here's another letter to add to the list; this is part of a resignation teacher from Maryland:
It is with a heavy, frustrated heart that I announce the end of my personal career in education, disappointed and resigned because I believe in learning. I was brought up to believe that education meant exploring new things, experimenting, and broadening horizons. This involved a great deal of messing up. As part of the experimentation that is growing up, I would try something, and I would either succeed or fail. I didn’t always get a chance to fix my mistakes, to go back in time and erase my failures, but instead I learned what not to do the next time. Failing grades stood, lumpy pieces of pottery graced the mantle, broken bones got casts. As a result of my education, I not only learned information, I learned to think through my ideas, to try my best every single time; I learned effort. I’d like to say that in some idealistic moment of nostalgia and pride, I decided to become a teacher, but the truth is that I never thought I would do anything else. I come from a long line of teachers and I loved school from day one. 
To pursue this calling, I worked hard to earn the title of “classroom teacher,” but I became quickly disillusioned when my title of teacher did not in any way reflect my actual job. I realized that I am not permitted to really teach students anything. When I was in middle school, I studied Shakespeare, Chaucer, Poe, Twain, O. Henry, the founding fathers, if you will, of modern literary culture. Now, I was called to drag them through shallow activities that measured meaningless but “measurable” objectives.
Read the whole thing.  Read the comments, too.

Frustrated and devalued, she decided to quit.  She was not allowed to fail students because that meant that she was a failure.  Besieged by administrators, parents, an ignorant general public who assumes teachers only work between vacations, and a system that treats kids like data points, she quit:
I am paid to give out gold stars to everyone so that no one feels left out, to give everyone an A because they feel sad if they don’t have one. I take the perpetual, insane harassment from parents who insist that their child’s failings are solely my fault because I do not coddle them to the point of being unable to accept any sort of critique; if each student is not perfect and prepared for college and life by age twelve, then I must be wrong about the quality of their work. I lower my own standards so much that I have been thinking my grades were generous. After years of being harangued, I gave Bs to D-quality work, but that is never good enough. All I can do is field the various phone calls, meetings, and e-mails, to let myself be abused, slandered, spit at because that is my career, taking the fall for our country’s mistakes and skewed priorities. So if you want your child to get an education, then I’m afraid that as a teacher, I can’t help you, but feel free to stop by if you want a sticker and a C.
I'm not sure if this is a new thing, or something that has been ongoing; you know how once you're made aware of something then all of a sudden there are stories popping up everywhere on the same subject.  There are probably just as many letters of glowing satisfaction from teachers out there as well.  We just aren't hearing about them.  If you find any, link them in the comments or send them to me.  Fair and balanced, you know.

At any rate, it does seem to be a growing national problem.

Stacy McCain linked to this same letter and comments:
More and more good, honest, decent, caring teachers are quitting the public school system. The deteriorating quality of faculty and administration is increasingly pervasive because no intelligent person would willingly submit themselves to such an oppressive bureaucratic yoke. The public education system is doomed beyond all hope of redemption, and the sooner Americans cease cooperating with the system — get your children out and support alternatives — the sooner its final collapse will arrive.
Charter schools, home schooling, private schools, school vouchers.  Whatever the answer, we need to figure it out and we need to quit blaming the teachers.

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