This morning as I walked down the hallway of my school, I started noticed how shabby the halls were starting to look. Signs on the wall peeling away, and posters with rips and scuffs along the walls where hundreds of bodies move past every day. Middle school students are very tactile. They have to touch everything. And sometimes, when they touch, they tear and pick and destroy. It happens.
As we plod through the testing season, I think this becomes a metaphor for our entire school. I see veteran teachers that we depend on for leadership announce retirement, and new teachers that bring sparks of vitality at the first of the year, burn out and drop from our ranks. Those of us that are left are scrambling to call our government representative and beg for our funding and plead for them to stop passing legislation that will dismantle public education. Like our beloved school house, we are tired, tattered and torn.
I have only been teaching 11 years. Maybe some of you can answer this: How did we get to this point? At what point in history did teachers stop becoming respected and revered and start being seen as leeches on our economy and failures of our children? I can't understand....
I am a product of an excellent public school system. I am a proud graduate of Durant High School, Class of 1983. (This is the part where you look at my profile picture and say that I don't look my age.) My teachers were respected, and the students who were nasty to the teachers were shunned by the entire student body. Not anymore. Sometimes I feel like I have a big target on my chest, and I dread parent calls, because usually there are excuses, accusations, and no positive action to speak of.
As the school year winds down to a close, you can feel the tension of the students starting to build. The days are longer, the weather is warmer, and summer is beckoning like an old, long-lost friend. I really don't blame the students for being distracted and squirrelly. Unfortunately, a lot rides on these tests. I'm waiting for the day when teachers get fired for non-performance on the tests. I saw that a lot when I taught in Texas from 2003-2004. That's a lot of pressure....and some teachers are starting to snap.
Almost all of us started this profession because we love kids and we love what we teach. Like any relationship, you have to feed and nurture that love for it to continue. A teacher who loves what they do can change the world. A teacher who is tired and burned out, stressed and under pressure, is an ineffective teacher. We are in danger of becoming what they say we are...and that scares me more than any test score.