As a retired educator, I want to say a special “thank you” to the current public school teachers who work with every student every day.
Unlike so many other lines of work, teaching a student is something for which there isn’t some tried and true formula.
Educated students can’t be mass produced like automobiles. Students aren’t copies of each other. Each student is unique and comes to school with varied abilities depending on their life experiences. Parents frequently marvel at the differences between or among their own children who are raised in the same environment.
Envision having 22 or more students who are from homes with different resources and opportunities. Now with that example, I want you to picture the expectation that the teacher must reach all students equally. Who of us could meet such a tremendous challenge?
When developing lessons, a teacher must be extremely knowledgeable and creative in order to meet the varied needs of the many students he/she has in the classroom. Can you imagine developing a lesson that will accommodate each student’s learning style? Some students are more visual while others learn better through an auditory mode. Many students need a mix of approaches to understand a concept or master a skill.
There are students who must overcome their own challenges—including learning disabilities, physical challenges, and/or communication deficits—in order to learn.
Outside of the academic element of teaching, there are a number of problems to be found. Classroom management and discipline, for instance, are always pressing issues in a teacher’s mind. These issues are to be carefully coupled with caring and compassion.
What a delicate juggling act. It is a very heterogeneous mix of students who constitute a classroom and these same students are reflective of the uniqueness within our own community. We live in a nation of differences.
I don’t have the space in this letter to fully address outside factors that affect schools—the difficulty of teaching during a worldwide pandemic and the horror of school shootings that have now mandated drills to practice keeping students safe during a lockdown. Public schools must compete for state funding because charter or choice schools are now included in the budget. Extreme testing practices have taken away valuable and spontaneous teaching moments. Interactive and hands on class projects and eye-opening field trips to museums or play and concert opportunities have gone by the wayside. Fine art programs where many students excel are cut due to funding issues.
Today’s educators have an extremely challenging job and society doesn’t offer the appropriate respect and support. The pay level isn’t equal to that of other professions and this is in itself ironic because teaching is the profession that makes all other professions possible.
As citizens, we have a responsibility to support our public schools. We can’t simply opt out just because we don’t have children or our children are grown.
Public schools are the great equalizer. These current students are our future doctors, mechanics, barbers, accountants, chefs, and real estate agents. These students will become research scientists, astronauts, technology designers, and business entrepreneurs.
The collective success of these students is imperative. It will impact our quality of life. Because of this, all of us have a stake in public education.
We must provide students with every opportunity to achieve. These achievements are only possible with a quality public education.