A few weeks ago, I spoke of fears as to what might happen if results of the state Education Department's new demands and requirements continue to pile more on the shoulders of educators presently working in our schools.
There have been times when I've done sequels to some of these "Voice from the Bullpen" narratives. I wasn't expecting that I would follow up to the piece a few weeks ago so soon, but things have happened to expedite the necessary continuance of the first edition regarding this topic.
I said in that previous piece that I've witnessed teachers stressed out, physically and mentally drained, some literally wondering if they could, or would, be able to finish out their careers in education or find futures elsewhere. Since part one a few weeks ago, some of my fears have become realities.
J. Paul Lombardo
In the past few weeks, I've heard about one of my former colleagues having spoken of leaving education and the area. The situation is not entirely due to the educational stresses being felt by educators today, but it does play some part in this person's desire to leave the area and education.
I've also heard of two recent resignations by educators at one local school and a principal at another, and was informed the reason was because these dedicated people just couldn't withstand the demands of what's happening in our schools today.
I know two other teachers and a principal who are retiring. They're eligible, but could -and may - have stayed if not for these demands. In another conversation, I've heard that two other colleagues of mine have been to physicians recently, and both heard the possibility that they might be suffering from ulcers. I know both of these teachers well and can attest to their tremendous dedication and heart for their job, their students and their desire for their students to be the best they can be. I'm not a doctor, but I've read medical magazines and pamphlets and heard from medical experts that stress can lead to ulcers. Coincidence or connection here? My guess is connection. And so it has begun ...
I'm saddened by these happenings. I hate seeing talented people who've given immeasurable heart and soul to children and their education become so overwhelmed and exhausted that a job that means/meant so much to them is no longer fun to do. They also feel they can't be themselves in their own classrooms. I'm hearing that teachers by grade level, in each subject area, are being told that topic lessons must all be taught at the same time in their own buildings and each building across the district. I've also heard units must be taught the same way and in the same time frame. I refer to my part one comments regarding "Robotic/Stepford" teachers.
Teachers use varieties of techniques to teach lessons. Some use whole-group instruction to present lessons. Some use small-group instruction. Some use projects to supplement topics or units. Some use historical video. Some have people, experienced in certain topics, come into their classroom and share knowledge with students. Some use field trips to supplement lessons. Many of those educational techniques don't seem to have a chance of survival in the new educational plan implemented this year, and thus could reduce students' chances to broaden their experiences of learning in different ways. I do have questions for those who have created these new procedures. Maybe I'll understand things better, though probably not agree even if I do understand.
With the new requirements, I know it'll be with teachers where things will begin, ironically since classrooms, labs, libraries and gymnasiums are where education takes place.
If the new demands don't raise levels of students, an educator may be designated an "ineffective teacher." If improvements aren't made in a certain time period, teachers could be dismissed. It's also my understanding school principals are being evaluated similarly and could possibly be labeled something to the effect of an "ineffective principal." (Forgive me, I'm unfamiliar with the official terms of the new evaluation.)
My first question is, if things don't get better using the ideas established and implemented by those in the state's ivory towers and the buck eventually stops on their desks, will they look in the mirror, brand themselves "ineffective educational experts" and fire themselves?
Also, have many, or even any, of the leaders coming up with these new ideas ever been in a classroom? (If so, how long ago?) I suggest they walk a mile in the shoes of teachers today and try some of their own ideas, (i.e. sit in on the great number of meetings teachers attend today, make the number of contacts in a week with anyone who matches the numbers of contacts teachers are expected to make, and write up two-to-five-page plans for each hour of the day they spend on the job.)
Oh yeah, they must also give up their hour-to-two-hour lunches too, and possibly eat their 30-minute lunch while doing paperwork, as many teachers do, correcting papers while they eat.
I'm not trying to beat a dead horse, but when I see what's happening, I can't help but be angry seeing excellent educational staffs, school systems and districts weakening because many outstanding workers who have so much to give kids are leaving, getting sick, and/or feeling like every time they take a step forward, someone pushes them two steps back.
Again, I agree that everyone, in all jobs, needs to be accountable, and teachers are a part of that "everyone." But teachers are not to blame for children's struggles or the world's problems. Let's stop saying, "It's the school's fault." Let's stop driving excellent teachers out of our schools and keep them where they belong: in the classroom educating our children.