Even though much of my work is literally TOO BIG FOR WORDS, occasionally I am inspired to write, and this is the place for that. Feel free to join in the conversation. Thanks for reading.
It's 3:23 in the morning, and I'm awake
because my great, great, grandchildren won't-let-me-sleep.
My great, great, grandchildren ask me in dreams
what did you do, while the planet was plundered?
what did you do, when the earth was unraveling?
surely you did something when the seasons started failing
as the mammals, reptiles, and birds were all dying?
did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen?
what did you do
My great, great grandchildren are talking loudly these days, as are my own children. Are yours, too? Maybe it comes with being 50, having three kids in school for 19 years now or knowing more teachers... maybe it’s life in 2015.
Maybe we are failing our children and our teachers.
I spent many hours this past weekend listening to a few Amazing! friends who have re-created themselves even after successful careers, marvelous mother-hoods, and even more education and expense, to teach. To go back to school to be in school, because they love teaching children. They are teaching for a fraction of what they used to make as lawyers and corporate gurus, a fraction of what they should be paid to do the most necessary job on the planet: teach our children. They are teaching the most stressed-out students ever during a time of more testing and demands than ever before. They are committed to passing along history to make a better future;
but the present educational system in which they operate is failing all of us.
Created at a time when the factory was "the thing,"
the American educational system needs a re-boot.
Let me be clear. These friends are no wilting violets: they are incredible teachers, wonderful friends, inspiring mothers. And they are burnt out. Fatigued from 12-14 hour workdays plus the homework they take home after that. They spend nearly all day Saturday grading, planning ahead, catching up. They feel fried, frustrated and nearly finished by a system systematically destroying its most important element -
those who educate.
I don’t know about you but I detest meetings.
Our teachers are being meeting-ed to death!
As I listened compassionately, reaching for any possible solution to this crazed chaos, I felt like I was sitting ringside watching a crumbling Tower of Babel. As they describe administrators who make multiples of their meager salaries, acting with little sensitivity for our kids or their teachers, I was aghast! They tell tales of managers meddling in their classrooms, making more busywork for them, year after year. They share stories of people who have never been in charge of a classroom trying to take charge of theirs. They give instances of a dozen more demands being placed on them every single year, as curriculum, learning requirements and assessments are constantly modified, tweaked, dare I say, “improved”?
On average, administrators make twice what our teachers do. Many of our school districts spend more per student on administrators than they do on teachers. How is that good for students? (I am not harping on administrators, there are certainly good ones out there. But do we need so many? Is there a chance they have served their purpose and their job is now complete or will we constantly need new curriculum and assessments? When is enough enough?)
This system is broken and it’s wreaking havoc on our teachers. I can't imagine how their stress could not possibly be felt by our students. My kids come home more days than not reporting crabby teachers, teachers who limit the number of questions they can ask, subs in place of teachers because of "meetings." Worst of all, over the past 19 years I have been the parent of children in school, I have seen far too many excellent teachers burn out in the hands of this inane system. I live in a town where more than half the people I know hire tutors, to supplement the lost learning time, to prepare children for standardized tests. Why don't we let them "just" teach?
Our tax dollars are investing in more testing, not better teaching.
Do us all a favor — talk to your kids’ teachers, to your friends who are teaching, to your neighbors who quit. Ask them how they are and then lean in to listen, really understand their concerns. Find out how many hours a day they spend in meetings versus time they spend with their students. How many class periods do they spend administering tests or teaching to prepare for tests? (My reports reveal multiples of classroom time spent in meetings and assessments.) Inquire how many levels of assessments they are required to prepare for, deliver and grade and report on.
(Even the Obama Administration came out this week agreeing with me and thousands of students on this one — “Too much testing!”)
Wonder whether you could last in this insane environment for a day, a week, much less a whole school year. And then, please help me understand how any of this is good for our children, our society, or our future.
Once you know, speak up in any way you feel comfortable. Support a teacher. Say no to more testing. Let’s figure out a way to support our teachers for the love of learning!
Our future depends upon it.