Why I would Rather Teach in Private Schools
Experience That Deterred Me From Public Education
I made it very clear to you all in my last article how much I currently detest the idea of working in public schools. Abusive administrations, lack of support, and scripted lectures are just not appealing to me, and no, the higher salaries and better benefits will not change my mind either. Something I forgot to mention in my previous article is that I also do not want to deal with students who do not hold education as their top priority. No, I would never blame a child for lacking the motivation to want to go to school and learn for his or her personal growth as an intellectual; that I blame on society and its emphasis on standardized tests that raise absolutely no interest in a child’s imagination and curiosity as well as a multitude of other things. With that being said, I honestly do not believe that I would last very long in public education. Here is a reason why. During my sophomore year of college, which was only last year, I enrolled in an Introductory to Education course at Rutgers. In order to pass the class, I was required to take part in a field placement where I would have to sit and observe in both an urban and suburban public school. Although I only spent a total of four days in the urban elementary school, I could tell that the teacher I was observing was growing increasingly frustrated with his students who lacked discipline, a common problem throughout the school. In fact, a common topic that he and I discussed was how frustrated he was with his students and how they all simply needed a break. As I write this, I now realize that I became a temporary venting outlet for that poor man. At one point he, with a heavy sigh, said to me, “I feel like I am more of a babysitter to these kids than a teacher.” If that was not enough to deter me from becoming a public school teacher, it was also in the lack of freedom he had when teaching his students according to his own interests and strengths. His number one goal as their teacher was to prepare them for the NJ ASK. A majority of his lessons revolved around material they would encounter on the test. God forbid the students do poorly on those damn things and make the school look bad! No wonder they could not stay focused and learn to value their education.
Why I Would Rather Teach In a Private School
To begin with, I understand that private schools are not the holy grail of all schools where one can be employed and never encounter any problems. One of the most common complaints I hear from private school teachers is that they are underpaid and do not have the same job security that a public school teacher does. Take the example Melanie Smollin writes about in her article that can be found at www.takepart.com. As cited by Melanie, “The salary offer was pretty insulting, considering that at the time, $21,000 was less than each student paid for a year of schooling…Dunn hoped that the housing the school provided would compensate for her meager wages. But the room she was offered was a dark and tiny attic apartment attached to someone else’s house.” The woman in this example was highly educated with a graduate degree, so it is very easy to sympathize with her plight.
Average salary for public and private school elementary teachers from 2007-2008
However, it is in the opinion of this article that the pros of teaching in a private school greatly outnumber the cons. For one thing, teachers are not forced to teach their lessons revolving around a standardized test or national curriculum. The Park School of Baltimore, a private school located in Baltimore, Maryland, makes it very clear on their webpage what the objectives of their school are. One states, “It is the objective of the school that students become deeply involved in intellectual endeavors and significant extra-curricular activities. In addition to a stimulating, flexible curriculum and a varied program of activities, this objective is supported by a high degree of teacher involvement in advising and counseling students.” Private schools similar to Park place heavier emphasis on personal responsibility and engagement from their students than do public schools.
Why is it so important that students feel as though they are the ones directing their education? I believe that when a student feels as though he or she is allowed to explore their interests, an intense curiosity grows within them that can almost never be satiated. Only through a flexible curriculum can teachers act as guides for their students rather than extensions of the dictatorial agendas of educational “reformers.”
One more pro to teaching in a private school is the emphasis on discipline. Not only should teachers be given the freedom to act as guides to their students, but they should also be given the freedom to discipline them when necessary. And no, I am not talking about taking away one of their hundred gold stars from a prize chart. I am referring to real discipline where a teacher can sit down with a principal and the miscreant’s parents and talk about their grievances with results. When teachers do not have to fight with their classes for control, real learning can occur. Private schools do a wonderful job of making the rules of their institution known before allowing parents to sign the contract that enrolls their children. The distraction from children with disciplinary issues is something I observed at each of my visits at the elementary school. There was a constant power struggle between my teacher and his students. The worst part was that it was only a handful of students who were holding the rest of the class back.
When I imagine myself as a teacher, I see myself standing in front of a classroom engaging with my students who are all eager to learn. When a teacher is given the opportunity to stand before a class that values their education and come from backgrounds that promote learning as a means to personal growth, he or she will almost certainly excel in their profession, no standardized tests or teacher proficiency tests required. I would prefer to teach at a private school rather than a public school, but I also hope that public school teachers, well-meaning administrators, and, most importantly, the parents of public school students can finally team together to put an end to the further mutation of public schools into something more than what they should be, institutions where students flock to in order to gain knowledge, experience, and expertise for their development as intellectuals and well-rounded people, such as what happens at private schools.