Opinion | Face It; We Don’t Teach Out of Convenience!

June 18, 2013

Written by Guest Blogger Rachel Davis

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It’s summer break and coupled with the fact that I have been on medical leave for 3 additional weeks, I have been cruising the web, and reading too many Facebook posts.  The trend right now seems to be teachers bashing teaching.  The I Quit letter that recently made the rounds and today a 12 minute video of an elementary school teacher complaining about her job is what has put me to mind to speak from the other end of the spectrum.

I will start my 13th year of teaching, 12 of which were at a Title One magnet high school in North Carolina. Let me preface this by saying that I have thought about leaving teaching many times, but not because of the government cutbacks or their impositions on evaluation and curriculum; that’s another entry for another time. The point I want to make is that I don’t see everything about teaching as some dream job with easy hours and all sunshine and butterflies.

Teaching is not easy and if for a minute you think you are going to walk into a utopian ideal of what a classroom should be, then you’re in for a rotten reality check. But it can be as long as you are ready to hear “no” and enjoy hitting brick walls, but always rising to the challenge of getting what you want, or at least a compromise of what you would like.   Teaching can be rewarding, can be entertaining and can be very enjoyable.  I would teach for free if what I actually got to do was teach.  But I don’t get to just teach, I have to do all the other crap that goes along with it, so I take the meager salary that goes along with “teaching”.

Teaching is for the crafty folks out there (and I don’t mean paste and crayons crafty).  It’s about using your brain to make things work to the best of your ability, and remembering every day that you are not doing this for the money, but for altruistic purpose of helping others.  The End.

It’s crap when people say things like “the government dictates how I teach” or “what I teach”.  In the aforementioned 12 minute video, she claims that government doesn’t allow her to hatch chicks in her class because they have taken the money away for that.

Really?  You think that is a line in the state budget?

Bill 800.12: Cut funding for eggs that hatch chickens in the 1st grade classrooms.

Um, no.  It’s about the way your school is being run and the local importance of things like that.  Maybe it is more important to the school to have calculators than it is have chicks hatching in the classroom.

So, what do you do about it?  Make a 12 minute video crying about your job, bashing teaching?

How about getting off your ass and making a change within your school? Or leave your school and find one that is more to your liking.  There is probably a charter school out there who will let you hatch chicks in your classroom.  Ohhhh?! Did I say the C word? Yup!

After 12 years, I have left public schools for a charter school.  We’ll see how it goes.  I am optimistic. Hired by folks who have put their trust in me to teach what I know.  Folks who hired other folks who will do their job on a regular basis.  I didn’t like the way my school was run and it was time for a change.  And I found a place with the same basic teaching philosophy as myself.  That’s why we need charter schools.  It’s called competition.  Now get off of your ass, quit your whining, and make a change if you don’t like what you’re doing or where you’re doing it!


Elementary, Schmelementary…Let’s Talk Middle School

January 10, 2010

Written by guest blogger Rachel Davis

This year I became the proud step-mom of a child entering middle school.  The second one, actually, because the first had a different set of problems at the time.   So, my child… Bright, energetic, bubbly, happy kid who received straight A’s last year has totally fallen into a hole this year.   Somehow she  managed to fail both language arts, and, received an “F” in Chorus, as well.   How do you get an “F” in a class that doesn’t require any coursework?   Neither of my daughters were socially promoted, but what happens to kids as they cross the threshold into middle school/junior high? This is a question without an easy answer.

I teach high school, both a foreign language, which covers ninth through twelfth grades, and, freshman level Earth Science.  Each semester that I get a new batch of students, I am amazed at how much they just don’t know -as in know how to read, how to think, and how to communicate-  I can deal with the out of control hormones, the insolence, and the proverbial chip on the shoulder, but what do you do with a fourteen year old who literally can’t read?

Why were students who cannot comprehend words like meaning or describe promoted to ninth grade? For those who can actually call words, why are they not able to decipher directions and otherwise grasp what a question is asking for, or, take the words that they have just determined the meaning of for a previous assignment, and, apply those definitions to the same words when they encounter them again in future assignments?

What is being taught at the middle school level?   From what I’ve seen, not very much.  Students seem to be shuffled upwards through the system with no regard as to whether they have actually learned anything.   But what does this kind of social promotion do for a student when they are looked upon with pity by their peers and/or perceived as stupid?  What does social promotion do for the classroom when more advanced students aren’t being taught at the level that challenges them because they are slowed down by the human speed bumps who shouldn’t have even been advanced to their level in the first place?

So much is considered for the elementary levels when the federal government talks about helping out schools, and, so much pressure is put on the high school levels with legislation such as No Child Left Behind.  But what isn’t studied, or doesn’t have money poured into it are the three years between elementary and high school when we lose our students completely because we allow their emotions to rule everything from proper behavior to what they eat to the manner in which they believe they should be taught.

I will close by sharing with you the result of allowing a former middle school student’s emotions to dictate her life.  I have a second step-daughter who is a junior in high school this year.  Her father, my husband, experienced her behind the wheel the first time she tried to take out a mailbox.  She didn’t recover from the trauma of ripping off my side view mirror, and, instead allowed her emotions to get in the way, and, as a result, almost smashed into a truck parked further down the road.   Since she has never learned how to control her emotions, she was not able to walk off the physiological changes (adrenaline surges) that occur when a scary situation happens.

Later that evening,  I made her get behind the wheel again to drive us to the store to buy the parts to fix the mirror she damaged with the mailbox.  On the way over, she almost killed us.  Thank God for the adult who stopped in time, but what if it had been another teenager with similar issues?

©2010 Rachel Davis. All Rights Reserved.

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