I Didn't Quit On Education, Education Quit On Me

I Didn't Quit On Education, Education Quit On Me

 
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People ask me all the time if I'm still teaching.  When I tell them I'm not, they're shocked.  They know all I ever wanted to be was a teacher.

In 1972, when I was in second grade, I decided I wanted to become a teacher.  I loved going to school, I loved helping other kids and I loved learning.  I played school with my dolls and my friends and, at the time. thought grading papers was so much fun! (My feelings on grading papers quickly changed after my teaching career began.)  I went to a great public school within walking distance and had really good teachers who were smart, well-read and worked for the greater good. Teaching was a calling for them, as it was for me.  Like the Peace Corps, teaching was, "the toughest job we'd ever love."

College students majoring in Education are eager to get their own classroom and begin making a difference in the lives of their students.  These students study Dewey, Skinner, Bloom and Gardner.  They research conflicting educational models, create countless lessons plans for imaginary students of all ages and experience math manipulatives, interactive whiteboards, and maybe even a chalkboard or two.  In their final year, these collegians are granted the crown jewel of education: the chance to teach months of lessons to real, breathing children.

Unfortunately, a teacher's eagerness to teach and love for her students can be soured to the point of leaving education altogether.  Some blame it on rude student behavior or uncooperative parents, others on class size.  Happy teachers will endure these things and much more.  But happy teachers are trusted and encouraged to teach creatively and in ways that are best for their students.  No checklist or standard can guide this type of instruction; Great teaching is done in spite of checklists and standards.

42 years have passed since I was in second grade, but a lot more than time has changed the face of education.  The pace of the school day has increased, and along with it, so have the frustration levels of teachers and students.  Teachers are often forced to use curriculum that makes little sense to them, their students or the administrators and they have fewer opportun-ities for creative lessons incorporating student interests and learning styles.  In a poor economy, school districts have fewer dollars to spend and can no longer afford to offer "extra" classes like P.E., Art and Music.  And what about the veteran teachers who know their material and control their classes with ease?  Districts no longer have their salaries in the budget and opt to hire newly graduated college students with no experience.  After all, they're cheaper labor.

What's left from this educational chaos is the suffering student who, rather than being the top priority of school reform, seems to be left out of the equation altogether.  So you see, I didn't quit on education, education quit on me.  I could no longer be part of a system that doesn't put students first.  I can't be part of doing things for the sake of "progress," when that progress is not in the best interest of students.  So parents out there, please forgive me for not hanging in there long enough to teach your child.  I really planned on doing that.  I thought I'd be teaching until I was in orthopedic shoes, but doing "whatever it takes to keep my job" is not in my nature when those actions are pedagogically backward and detrimental to students. 

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Bonnie L. Frank

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