I need to respond to my previous post where I became the devil’s advocate to myself. Shockingly, that is not my actual opinion concerning public education (even with all the heavy sarcasm). I know that bad teachers exist. I had some. Every school has at least a few. But they are not the majority, not even close. I’m happy to say that most teachers are good teachers. Most know what they are doing and truly care about their students, even if they can’t help every student to succeed. And they can’t be blamed for every problem student and every poor test score her students may receive.
Sarah’s end-of-the-year review is coming up soon, for her first year of teaching. And test scores are the main reason Sarah is nervous about the review. She knows she had students in almost every class who failed. And, sadly, she could do little for these students, as she gave them every opportunity to understand the material and succeed in her class. The students chose not the complete the work or pay attention, choosing instead to sleep through the class. And Sarah doesn’t have the time to make sure that every student is awake and paying attention; there are 25 other students in the class who care more than the ones asleep on their desks.
Sarah shouldn’t be blamed for the failure of these students and their inability to learn the material. She is not a superhero that can slow down time and teach every student individually, in a 90-minute class period); she can’t focus all her time on one or two misbehaving students when she has others who want to learn what she wants to teach.
It is because of these students and their failing test scores that Sarah, and teachers like her, are in an almost constant fear for their jobs. Every failed test score is a mark against her. And how do you explain to administrators that there is little you can do to help a student when they don’t want or try to learn?
I’m not saying that the students are the only problem in the current education system. But we also can’t look just at the teachers and say they are the problem. No one part of the system is. Every part needs a second look and a change. Blaming just the teachers belittles all the hard work that most teachers put in every day, not just 180 days a year, but all 365. And it is important that we continue to respect these teachers, even as we look for ways to improve the public education system.