This is a guest post written by Erin L. She teaches middle school in a public charter school teacher in Louisiana. For more information on the series and submitting your own perspective on education post, click here.
When I first decided to pursue my teaching certificate, I had a pretty lofty idea of what my classroom would look like. Of course, I’d have state-of-the-art technology at my fingertips, unlimited resources, and students who were focused and eager to learn. With that combination and my zealousness, I thought nothing could get in the way of my students’ achievement.
Sadly, though, the reality of teaching doesn’t quite measure up to the dream. Don’t get me wrong, there is still much to be loved about the education field. Nothing makes me happier than winning over a reluctant reader with a great book or finding ways to connect with troubled students. That being said, there are several roadblocks that keep my teaching dreams grounded.
The biggest one, of course, being the pressure of standardized testing and all that it impacts. The internal struggle we have with not wanting to teach to the test yet still being very aware that the scores are directly tied to our job security and salaries (while this isn’t true for all teachers, it’s definitely becoming the norm).
I’m currently teaching at an inner-city charter school that relies on student scores just for survival. The vast majority of our students come to middle school with reading and math skills that are at least two years behind. Many of my eighth graders came to me reading at a third grade level. And yet, I’m supposed to teach them the same curriculum as every other eighth grade class across the country (This is known as the Common Core Curriculum). If we don’t show significant growth each year, our building sits on the chopping block. And for my students, their scores determine whether or not they can advance to high school. The pressure on everyone often feels insurmountable.
What I want you to know is that teachers are also saddened and frustrated at the state of education in our country. We, too, feel that your children are over-tested and stifled from developing an authentic love of learning. We agree that no one test can adequately summarize the achievement of your child.
At the end of the day, we don’t have any choice in the matter. We are forced to push aside our frustrations and teach the mandated curriculum, whether or not we agree that it’s best for our students. We spend our Sundays constructing lesson plans that meet all of the learning needs and styles of our students. We give up our planning time to work with small groups, giving them the extra attention they need. We volunteer to teach Saturday school to go over the test-taking strategies they need to learn but our jam-packed curriculum doesn’t allow. We become counselors and parents to our students, lending listening ears and offering sage advice.
And we do it all because we care. Because, at the end of the day, that’s still why we teach. No one would put up with what we do if they didn’t care about the kids. It’s ALL about the kids!
And we hope that through all the effort, our students perform well enough to ease up the pressure – just for a few months… until the next groups of students walk into our classrooms and we start all over again.