The field of education is one of the most politicized industries of our time. The federal, state and local governments spend most of their time trying to figure out how each can best the other and get the most money. Nothing that is done is done for the improvement of education in the local classrooms. Nothing is accomplished with any spirit of support for the teacher who rarely gets a break to go to the bathroom let alone eat lunch. Not one thing is passed to make education of our young people a priority.
I taught for so long that if I told you, you might think I had one foot in the grave. I recently retired but my heart and soul remain back in my classroom. I care passionately about what happens in that classroom. I once thought I should care what happens in the political arena of the educational domain, but as time went by I lost energy and realized most of what is being done should have been tossed in the last century.
Our leaders at the top have made some effort over the years but between their efforts and the place where education is played out, the classroom, something happens. It becomes about the money. We only get the money if we can prove we are doing our jobs. We only get the money if most of our students can pass a certain set of long tests. Teachers have been threatened with pay cuts, loss of supplies to do their jobs, being their students score on a test.
Getting students to take a series of long classroom tests to make sure they can pass the district assessment that is set up to ensure the district will score high enough on the state testing so the state can show the federal government that “WE ARE WORTHY” is more than ridiculous. It is insanity.
So what is a teacher to do? All I can tell you is what I did. I just put my head down and stayed focused on the students in my classroom to the best that I knew how. I learned to be resourceful, to tighten the belt at home, to spend extra time writing grants, writing my own materials, and working longer hours than I was ever paid to do. I worked all summer, vacations, and on weekends. I helped monitor sporting events, school social events, sat on district committees, collaborated with my peers and took the look of disappointment from my supervisors when I wasn’t able to get it all done. I gave my all to every student, family, school, and district where I served. And even though the financial gain of teaching after 8 years of education, was at the bottom of the pile, the satisfaction and internal rewards were great.
Today there are many teachers using the internet to reach out to others, share or sell their individually produced materials and ideas, and uplifting each other. Those sites are happy places and they make me proud. For once we do not feel alone in our efforts, we do not come to school, work with one group of students after another, all day only to sit down and spend hours in paperwork and planning and then get home to our families, without even having a conversation with the teacher next door. We have the internet and we have the ability to find strength.
It is sites like EdHero that are welcomed by every teacher, young and old. Internet sites that offer the resources, the stage for our products, collaboration with others in our own time and space, and some relief from the weight that politicians have put on us. If only those politicians would be willing to spend one day by my side, it would open eyes. I wonder about all those miles’ teachers have walked, physically, emotionally, and financially and how worn they become over time. What is left when a teacher walks away from the desk?
I know. A teacher is left with a solid memory of having touched so many. A teacher is left with great knowledge to mentor others. Teachers are left knowing that they have truly made a mark on the next generation. Most are not famous or set for life in retirement. Yet, we are rich and in so many ways that those who do not teach could never understand. We have been part of something much greater than ourselves, our community, our state or nation. We have been part of creating world leaders, new researchers, technology gurus, and best of all, better teachers for the next group of children.