Diane Ravitch has asked teachers, parents, administrators and anyone who supports public schools to write their congress people and the President for the October 17 Campaign for Public Schools. After 30 hours in my school building over the last two days, here is my contribution. It ain't perfect but I'm too tired to proofread at this point. Go leap over the orangey thingy.
October 9, 2012
Dear President Obama,
I am writing this after working 30 hours in two days at my job as a high school English teacher. I am exhausted but I can't sleep because I'm too worried about the demands of my job. After trying to reconfigure my classes to meet the common core standards, trying to analyze test data to figure out which kids should be getting what intervention to catch their skills up to grade level, taking a class to learn how to implement response to intervention, working with students who are falling behind and spending three hours at parent teacher conferences, I finally got to go home and talk to my three lovely children.
You see, President Obama, we teachers are bearing the brunt of the "failing" education in our schools. Although for 80% of the population education is not failing, we teachers are still failures. I am willing to do the work to help that 20% who need more time or more instruction or more support or even just a snack and a pep talk. But the constant demoralization of teachers and education professionals on top of the extra work is taking its toll. We need more support and less blame.
In the last 3 years I have lost 1/2 my preparation time, been asked to reform my three classes to fit a new set of standards, and to implement before school, after school and study hall RTI time for students who do not meet grade level benchmarks or simply do not have the support at home to complete the work required. The 2.5 hours I had 4 years ago to evaluate students, plan new and better lessons and just think about teaching and learning are gone. Now I must take more time away from my own children (who need support from their single mother) to plan my classes and grade papers. And I do this at 6.5% less salary (and virtually no collective bargaining rights) than I did 2 years ago. I now teach 3 summer school classes and have taken on another extra-curricular assignment just so my own kids can continue with ballet, band and boy scouts. I have cancelled cable television and allowances for my kids because they are too expensive.
I am a highly educated, dedicated teacher with almost 20 years experience in education, but I am overwhelmed. My classroom is a physical mess; my morale is at an all-time low. I and the rest of the teachers in my building cannot fix the ills of my small community alone while we are vilified by "reformers", school board members with personal agendas and state executives retaining resentment against public workers. Something has got to give. Please send help soon; we feel like Atlas bearing the weight of the world, and we are not gods, just teachers.
Not Dead Yet