Moms and dads, first let me thank you. My endless praises go out to you for reading to your child, for encouraging learning, and for putting a high emphasis and priority on their education. I cannot tell you how priceless that is to me as their teacher.
I hear you. I, too, parent a gifted child. In fact, we pulled him from public school this year because, try as they did, the public school system just simply did not have the resources to meet my son’s needs behaviorally or academically.
I hear your concern that your student is bored and unchallenged. I hurt for your child who sincerely has a love of learning and you’re afraid they’ll lose that passion. I honestly feel in my gut how hard you fight for your child’s needs to be met. I do.
But let me be real.
Teaching in the public school system in 2018 is not a joke. I fully believe, as I tell my students from day one, that standardized testing is complete garbage. No college evaluates that score or takes it into account for who they accept or turn away. No jobs ask for your English Reading test score on an application. That just doesn’t happen.
However, here I sit, staring at your eager learner in a class filled with students in desks-some of whom can read, and some who struggle to write their own name. I teach high school.
Even if I completely disregard the fact that I see young people every day who I know will eat their only meals between the hours of 7:30am-3pm and whose parents have stolen money their child has earned at respectable jobs to buy drugs, that doesn’t begin to touch the fact that the future of my own job-my livelihood- is based on my students’ performance on a test that everyone resoundingly agrees proves nothing.
I am completely aware of the fact that my ability to teach is no more illustrated by the test scores of the children in my classroom as I am horrified that some of my kids believe they are failures because of these same evaluations.
So, I agree that your child deserves better. I believe all children deserve better.
However, please try to understand that teachers are doing the best that they can. To date this school year, I have spent nearly $1000 on classroom supplies, food, water, clothes, bus passes, and shoes for my students. I have driven them to job interviews and I have stood next to them in court. I have defended them at home and in the principal’s office. But nothing seems to change.
I assure you that, while I cannot speak for every teacher in every public school classroom, I go to sleep at night troubled by the safety, security, and futures of the young people I teach, but I am also at peace knowing that I am doing absolutely everything that I can.
So I am profusely sorry that the class sizes, diverse learning levels, insufficient technology and supplies, and insane pressures of state testing and evaluations that I am forced to work with make me unable to give the attention and focus to your gifted learner that they sincerely deserve. I do not have an answer for you. Again, this is why we pulled our own son and decided to homeschool.
But please do your best to sympathize with what good teachers are subjected to daily. We have meetings about meetings after emails about paperwork that we have to document. We have parent conferences before school, game duties after school, grading papers after midnight, and tutoring during our planning periods. We buy things that are on no school supply list because some of our kids are hungry or dirty. Some of us go without lunches or bathroom breaks the entire day to ensure we are getting it done for our students.
It is an unfortunate truth that the public school system, as I’ve seen it, is in a cycle forcing teachers to focus on bringing lower level learners up to a level them deem as “standard” while leaving out entire groups of learners along the way. I don’t agree with it.
It should be noted, however, that our jobs are our means of provision just as much as a truck driver, doctor, or factory worker. Yet we are not evaluated the same when we do what we are asked when the process, itself, is broken.
I genuinely wish I had a cure-all for this dilemma. I am devastated by it daily and I am desperate to fix it. However, as only one teacher in a country of millions of us, I feel like I am on a hamster wheel putting band-aids on broken bones and, at the end of the day, we are still left with bored students who are losing their passion for learning and low-level learners who are left feeling ashamed and embarrassed.
I have been fortunate enough to teach in a project-based learning environment for the last three years. While that is a brilliant solution for preparing our young people for real world scenarios, the massive class sizes are still a barrier that allow some students to slip through the cracks.
We have to fix this broken system. As a mother, a teacher, and a homeschooling parent, I just wish I had the answer; but I don’t.
This article originally appeared on The Mama on the Rocks