My Perspective on Education: From an Inner City Public Charter School Teacher

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.

BUT

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.

Comments

  1. You are a teacher that gives me hope, thank you.

    I admit I am quick to complain about standards and schools and issues but when I read how much you dislike the requirements and how much work you put in, I have hope.

    Thanks for doing such a thankless job from a mom in Wisconsin.

  2. I loved this post. Very honest about the struggles teachers face yet still focusing on the positive. I too, was a teacher and faced the same challenges as you stated. I taugh 2nd grade and felt that we had to achieve a certain standard score on the tests… I would, in a round about way, give answers to question that didn’t seem “fair” to have my student have to know. Little mini lessons on the test they were about to take. I feel like The government is missing a HUGE part of education! Not test scores, but teaching students to be respectful, contributing members to society!

  3. simplici says:

    Thanks, Erin! I think it can be easy to assume that teachers are behind the testing and “core curriculum” stuff when in reality you have to follow the requirements even if you don’t like them and even if it’s very difficult to do so with the students and where they are at academically. Thanks again for sharing your perspective!

  4. I started my teaching career in the very same way. It is frustrating to help a kid gain so much and then be told it’s not enough, especially when you’re on the hook to make them gain 2+ grade levels in the same amount of time and in the same way that an English-speaking, middle-class, well-fed, “normal” child only gains one grade level. It’s so hard to get good teachers to stay in these kinds of schools– there’s absolutely NO extra incentive, except the joy you get from helping those awesome little kids who need you so much. Sometimes that’s not enough when our own families demand more time/income/balance. Keep your head up and know that we understand the daily struggles you and your students face!

  5. Thanks again for asking me to contribute to your series! I’m super excited to see what’s to follow!!

  6. First off I want to congratulate you for being a teacher- esp now in today’s society. I have some friends that are teachers and they tell me quite the stories! I graduated from high school in ’98 and during the time I was in school (K-12th) the biggest problem I had was if I wanted hot lunch or cold…point being I didn’t feel all the struggles and pressures that kids growing up now face. That being said I did struggle quite a bit with standardize testing as well as certain subjects. I was fortunate enough to get the help that I needed to succeed in school. I don’t know what I would have done or how I would have felt as a student if I only was judged on my standardize testing scores. I am so glad to hear that there are still teachers out there that measure learning in numerous ways, not just standardize tests. That there is more to being a student!! Thanks Erin! 🙂

  7. In a challenging set of circumstances and in a less-than-fair situation, I am so happy that we have teachers who are still willing to throw themselves into teaching to the best of their ability without giving up. So many can turn to apathy…you have chosen the higher road of increased commitment and perseverance and love for your students! Well done!!! Keep pressing on! You ARE making an impact!

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