So much has changed in the twenty-eight years since I began teaching! In the first five years, I only remember one student diagnosed with ADHD. I never had any worries about food allergies or spending too much time in the sun. I’m not sure if the change is due to better diagnoses or just too much information via the Internet, but it is very definitely a different job.
What hasn’t changed is my teaching style. Methods come and go. In fact, my last professional development workshop in public education was exactly the same as my first fourteen years earlier. I wanted to say, “This is where I came in. Can I quit professional development now?”
All kidding aside, I really have not changed the way in which I teach. And kids have not changed in the way they respond. When a teacher challenges students to learn beyond the basics, students respond positively. They like to know that they are becoming smarter than the average students their age. This has been my experience, whether in public education or private. Sure, there are those students who will not respond no matter what. But I have found those students to be far and few between, and the reason for their lack of desire to learn rarely has anything to do with my teaching style. If I can establish a relationship with those, many make great progress.
I wish I could say that I think education itself has changed for the good. When the worry of a lawsuit trumps sound educational practices, I shake my head in dismay. I do believe in a list of objectives to be met at each grade level, but I’m not really a fan of Common Core. I see college entrance exams being aligned to it, and visions of Fahrenheit 451 and Cpt. Beatty’s speech about “chocking kids full of facts” comes to mind. One of my eighth graders last year put it best when she proposed that students will no longer need to distinguish themselves, but rather just prove how many facts they could retain. She went on to say that teachers would no longer need to learn more than the Common Core either. Bright student!
I most dread the President’s edict that goes into effect in December, though. It requires that all salaried people making less than $50,000 a year be paid overtime if working past 40 hours a week. This is going to seriously effect teachers. If a teacher is good, he/she is teaching during the work day. All grading and planning cannot be done in an hour planning period, and most private school teachers don’t even get that hour planning period. And what about tournaments on the weekends? Are speech and vocal and band and sports teachers going to have to give those things up because already-strapped districts do not have money for overtime? I know the President’s intentions were good, but this is going to do so much more harm to education than good.
Luckily, I’m an owner at my school (which is a business, not a non-profit). We owners can work as much as we want! But, I have teachers who are really hard-pressed to figure out how to get it all in to a 40-hour work week.
I have tremendous faith in the kids of today. My students are amazing, and they exceed every expectation I have of them! I love my work, and I love helping them realize their dreams. While I have doubts about the state of education today, I have no doubts about the state of the educated!