After 31 years of teaching my wife has decided to retire. She was deathly sick starting February and did not get back to the classroom until the start of the new school year. It appears that her sickness has done more than just screw up her nervous system, it has greatly reduced her tolerance for assholes, be they adult or student. She loves teaching, she loves working with kids but the inability of the public school system to manage discipline without a stack of paperwork has pushed her over the edge. The inability of the public schools to fire incompetent teachers and administrators has corrupted the system to the point she is happy and relieved to get out.
She is presently teaching what many teachers would consider a dream curriculum. She is a Project Lead the Way teacher for 6th, 7th and 8th grades. Her courses are Intro to Engineering, Robotics and Medical Investigations. All are hands-on lab type classes where kids get to explore and build. She loves teaching these classes and she loves the kids in them. The problems are:
- having 30 kids in a class,
- having the two or three kids that are unmanageable to the point of being a threat to the other kids and yet are not removable from the room because more paperwork is needed,
- having a tech based class without the needed tech support,
- having a dean of students that excuses a student’s poor behavior by the “Johnny is having a bad day” method,
- and having parents that have absolutely no remorse or feel no responsibility for the poor behavior of their children.
You would think that after 31 years of public school teaching she would be used to this. She says in the last 5 years the paperwork has increased at the administrative end of teaching that it is impossible to really teach. More hours are spent generating a paper trail than is spent teaching.
I know many of her fellow teachers. They all want out of teaching. They are counting the days until they can retire. There is something wrong here. Her school has developed an Us vs. Them mentality. Administrators vs. teachers vs. students. I have teacher friends in the three public high school in town. All three seem to be suffering this same malady. I am not saying all the public school in the nation have this issue but it does seem to be a trend.
I worry for public education. Standardized test scores used for teacher evaluations, the inability to get rid of the incompetent because of tenure, the trend of bad teachers going on to be bad administrators, the suggestion that more money will save bad education, the fear of lawsuits if Johnny does not graduate, the rather shaky method of financing education and a host of other issues just point to a very bad future.