In anticipation of a (hopefully) fortcoming discussion forum, I’ll contribute my thoughts on John Taylor Gotto’s letter referenced in a previous post here.
Even though this letter was written ten years ago, it certainly sums up my feelings when I left the teaching profession in 1998 to try my hand at the tech sector. Like Mr. Gotto, I was an “award-winning” teacher, which simply meant that I did enough of the flavor-of-the-month, “education reform” based teaching to gain a little bit of attention from people who knew so little about educating kids that they could only become professionally successful by removing themselves from the classroom in favor of administrative jobs where kids become faceless statistics on annual standardized test results. Between 8 and 3 each day, about 150 kids came into my room, and I didn’t see any of them for more than 55 minutes….ever. I didn’t have books to give my kids, and there was one reject computer in my room. I’m not kidding…when I started teaching in 1995, I was given an Apple 2E to use as my instructional computer.
But the problem is much, MUCH bigger than a lack of funds and too many kids in a classroom. It’s a fundamental lack of caring for actually EDUCATING kids that permeates the middle and upper eschelons of American public education. My administrators were perfectly happy to “engage” me with endless stacks of paperwork, meaningless professional development seminars, uncounted hours in district restructuring meetings, strategic planning, and a host of other trendy buzzwords that basically boiled down to gathering a bunch of teachers (some good, some bad, some great) together and telling them that they’re doing it all wrong. I didn’t quit teaching because I couldn’t handle the students, or because the pay sucked. I quit teaching because I could no longer tolerate the obstacles that were put in my path by the very people whose job was to help me educate kids. I think the straw that broke the camel’s back was when the school board demanded that our site based council (made up mostly of teachers) pick four of our colleages to be layed off due to lack of funds, even though the number of students was increasing. Less than a month after these teachers lost their jobs, the board bought the building next door to theirs so that the administrative staff could have bigger offices. Price tag…about four teachers’ salaries.
I want to be a teacher. I still think of myself as a teacher. One of the greatest sadnesses in my life is that I’m not teaching. But I’ve found that I’m a much happier person in the shitty, back-stabbing, cube farm surrounded by PHB’s than I ever was teaching. Strange thing is, now I work for a company that provides Internet access and services to public schools, and I honestly think that I do more to help educate kids now that I’m working here than I really did in the classroom. But then here, I don’t have to wear the handcuffs that my school administration slapped on my every day.