I am both a teacher and a mother. Since my daughter began school, I’ve realized that all parents wonder what happens when the bus pulls away. Students today do things you would never have done in your public school 20 years ago. My second-grade daughter has an actual concept of numbers and is making Power Points. Her teachers appeal to the many learning styles and personalities.
My seventh-grade students are writing essays, doing research and communicating in sophisticated ways. They have the ability to find and use information to collaborate. I wrote my first “real” paper as a junior in high school, and I was in college before I learned how do it well.
As I’ve been feeling the attack on teachers, I’ve watched what I see around me, trying to notice both what students are achieving academically, but also socially and emotionally. I watched students “Go Bald for Bucks,” raising thousands of dollars for cancer research by shaving their heads or donating their hair to “Locks for Love.” I’ve watch students show respect and care for severely handicapped and mentally impaired students, cheering wildly when a little girl with Down syndrome was voted “most caring.” A visit to an art show featured diverse and inventive works that captured the excitement and tumult of childhood.
I’ve walked by a classroom full of students at 7:30 a.m. clamoring to get extra help. Other students come in flushed, having just tried out for lacrosse at 6 a.m. My son’s first teachers, the volunteers in his Sunday school class, are mostly younger than 18.
Students work on projects together, organizing, emailing and, yes, texting information to each other. They operate in “the cloud.” Some may not see the value, but the industrial age is over and we live in a “flat” world, one where the distance between India and Indiana can be obliterated by an Internet connection. Twenty years ago, and even now, in the “adult world,” collaboration is viewed as cheating. Your children, both alone and together, are publishing to audiences of thousands. If you don’t believe me, check out student blogs, online magazines, glogster and even their Facebook accounts.
I’m not suggesting that we ignore what’s wrong with the big picture, but I am suggesting that the public deserves to know what else happens between the hours of 8 and 3. Because some schools aren’t performing, Albany seems to be saying, let’s scrap it all.
How about looking at the attributes the under-performing schools share? Is it funding? Is it the poverty level? Is it the lack of parental involvement? Is it lack of professional development? These are factors that a teacher cannot control, yet are being asked to “fix.” This is tantamount to blaming the physical education teacher for the obesity epidemic.
We are on the same side, parents and teachers. I don’t know how to solve it all, but I know that all children want to be challenged. They all want parents who approve of them; they want praise and attention and acceptance. The academic and emotional growth is truly staggering over the course of a year.
So, in those hours that you entrust us with your children, know that there is a teacher front and center, and many behind the scenes. We are doing what we do best – helping your children do what they can, with what they have, from where they are.