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Why I Want to Avoid Public Schools
Why I Want to Avoid Public Schools
It has been almost two years since I decided that I want to be a teacher. I was accepted to Rutgers University in 2011 and initially had big plans for myself as a biology major who wanted to become a doctor. Looking back at that point in my college life, I am incredibly happy that I decided against it. I look at my friends who are biology/premed majors today, and I cannot help but feel as though they limit their academic growth by what their GPA’s tell them they are capable of. I wanted more out of my college experience than grades and a solid GPA. The switch from a biology major to a history major was a rather drastic one but none too unusual for a college student these days. Hell, I have friends who are juniors who still have no clue where they are headed! I was fortunate to have made the change during my freshman year. My decision to become a teacher did not come to me as suddenly as my switch between majors, however. I was not quite sure what I wanted to do with a history degree at first, but I was just happy that I was able to pull myself out of a highly stressful, overly competitive college experience. In dire need of a haircut, I made the hour trip back to my hometown and favorite barber, a decision that was to have been life changing for me. He was the first to propose to me the idea of using my history degree to become a teacher. I remember sitting in the chair in that tiny barbershop allowing my imagination to create a whole new future for me as a teacher. I pictured my own classroom, dedicated and loving students, and even colleagues who would grow on me to become lifelong friends. I was overjoyed by my newfound purpose in life and began to take courses that would lead me to my future career.
Two years later I still feel that way about teaching, but not only was a whole new future created for me by his proposal, a whole new world, the world of public education, was opened to my eyes and not all of it was good. I began to do research about what the life of a teacher, mainly public school teachers, would be like. For the most part, I found articles, and blogs, and yahoo answers that told me what I already knew. Higher salaries, better benefits, and extended breaks during the winter, spring, and summer all sounding amazing. I kept asking myself, “Why aren’t more people becoming teachers? They have it so great!” I found my answer after further research. What disturbed me the most was not that teachers and, more importantly, former teachers were complaining about the behavior problems of their students, although there was plenty of that going on too, it was that they were all complaining about the behemoth administrative structures that had their schools and charter schools in a chokehold. One simply has to conduct a Google search asking, “What is it like being a public school teacher?” and a plethora of links will lead optimistic and completely naïve people, such as myself, to the true reality of the life of a teacher. I conducted such a search and found the story of Dave Stieber who wrote an article for The Guardian about his life as a public school teacher in Chicago. First of all, Dave is an incredibly brave and dedicated man for having the patience to teach in the Chicago school system. When asked “What are the biggest challenges facing you…,” Dave’s response was:
“Public education is under attack in this country. There is a lot of money being pumped in to make it appear that temporary two-year teacher programs are helping students, and that charters supposedly perform better. There are an insane amount of standardized tests. Then there is our mayor [Rahm Emanuel], who doesn't actually listen or care what the community thinks; he has other priorities.
There is the fact that the mayor appoints the school board rather than having an elected board. Our city claims it has no money for schools, yet gives money hand over fist to beautify an already nice downtown, build new subsidized sports stadiums, river walks and parks, all while closing the biggest number of schools in the history of the United States.”
Dave, a teacher employed in one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S., did not complain about the threat of violence as being one of the biggest challenges facing him as a teacher, he did not complain about the lack of resources his school has to overcome, he complained about the bureaucracy that was supposed to be on his side! After reading similar stories, I began to make connections between other people’s experiences with public education with my own. I attended a rather large high school in south Jersey and looking back at some of their practices, it saddens me to say that even my own school could not avoid some of the pitfalls of public education. After conducting a search on the salaries of the employees at my former high school, which is public information, I found that there are currently 11 positions that contain the words principal, superintendent, supervisor, or director employed there. Among these 11 employees the average salary is $125,183.91, the highest being paid $180,866, and the lowest $100,015. What their purpose is exactly, I still have no idea.
Besides having to deal with the horde of principals, superintendents, supervisors, directors, or a terrifying combination of all four of them, public school teachers also have to find ways to make their jobs enjoyable, since they have to adhere to very strict curriculums and lesson plans. I believe teaching becomes increasingly harder when the power to teach is taken away from teachers and put in the hands of the aforementioned goons-er, I meant dedicated educational facilitators (not!). With that being said, can you really blame schools for sticking to a curriculum and forcing its teachers to lecture from a lesson plan verbatim? I believe the majority of the fault lies with standardized tests mandated by the states and federal government. Students are no longer learning for their personal benefit; they are no longer learning to advance their intellectual capacity. An environment has been created in public education where the goal is to pump out as many students as possible even though the education they are obtaining is of subpar and mediocre quality.
There has also been a complete breakdown, in my opinion, of priorities in society today. I do not know how the rest of you feel about this topic, something I am more than willing to find out in your comments below, but as a millennial, I do not believe that education is our nation’s top priority. Has it ever been? With our government funding war after war, it should become more obvious as to why the public education system is crumbling beneath us. They continue to rob our nation’s schools of valuable resources and taxpayer money that could have been put to better use, such as creating more outlets for teachers to find help when they feel overwhelmed. From theeducatorsroom.com, one teacher writes:
“I’m a new teacher who happens to teach English to 6th graders in an urban school district. I’m overwhelmed with lesson planning, parent teacher conferences, delivering content that is interesting to the students, pacing them to finish novels and to “top it off” I don’t feel like I can ask for help because I don’t want to be looked at as “weak”. Help!”
I do not believe that there is anything to gain from forced curriculums and scripted lesson plans. What teachers need today is a large support system acting as a network that offers them support and guidance when they are having trouble, which should include their schools administration, their fellow colleagues, and especially their students’ parents, and not a monstrous administrative system that soaks up obscene amounts of cash and demands too many things from teachers. Teachers today must not only act as teachers but also as: counselors, mentors, therapists, nurses, second parents, psychologists, mediators, artists, etc. The list goes on and only seems to get longer.
On a completely separate note, I want to thank all of those who take the time to read this article and leave their opinions and criticisms in the comments section below. This is my first article I have ever written online and am really hoping that you have all gotten something out of it. Most importantly, however, I am always looking to improve my writing, for a teacher never really stops being a student. Along with writing your opinions based off of the information given to you, I am also hoping you could offer me advice as to how I could improve my writing for next time; I will even be willing to re-edit this article when your suggestions start coming in. Thank you!