Please allow me to preface what I am about to say with a disclaimer of sorts. I am not a disgruntled former employee with an axe to grind.
I have recently reached a milestone in my life. I have retired from teaching. Also, I am well aware that there are members of the public who think teachers “have it made,” only work so many months of the year, work five hours a day, etc.
Well, let me assure the naysayers that teachers I know work at least a 50-hour work week, are fiercely dedicated and professional when dealing with your children.
For most of my career, I felt that I, at the very least, did no harm to my students. I am under no illusion that I was the “be all and end all” of my profession. I have often said that students survive in spite of us.
While that part of my career is over, I cannot help but be extremely concerned for my former colleagues and their charges. The cause of my malaise is at least two-fold: the new evaluation policy instituted by the Western School District and the fallout resulting from it.
The evaluation policy does little, if anything, to enhance the education of students.
Let me give you a few examples. If a student feels that he is not prepared for a test, he can refuse to do it. The teacher has already informed the class of the test at least a week in advance. He now has to arrange another time for that student to write. The student can actually say that he is yet again unprepared for the test and the teacher has to accommodate him. The consequence of this is that the teacher now has to devise another test for that student. Test construction takes time. So what happens if there are two or more students who say they are not ready to write on any given day? They have seen the test so a new test must be devised - each time!
If a student is caught cheating, a score of zero will not immediately be assigned. Instead, the student can be directed to do a re-write. The teacher must then construct yet another test for Little Johnny. Major exams like Christmas and June may take as long as 8-12 hours to construct. If Little Johnny does badly on a test/exam, he can ask for a “do over.” Are we seeing a pattern here?
Teachers have been told not to assign a mark lower than 30 per cent on any evaluation for their students. What does this mean? If Little Johnny has an average of less than 30 per cent in a subject, the teacher must assign a score of 30 per cent on a report card.
So the consequence for doing nothing is 30 per cent. I would suggest that if you or I did nothing at our jobs we would be fired, and not paid at least 30 per cent of our salaries.
Chronic student absenteeism is a major problem. Teachers have been directed to call home to inform parents that Little Johnny has missed a great deal of time.
Some students have missed over 80 school days. That’s 16 weeks of school. Where are the parents in this?
If the student does not return to school, a letter can be sent home and/or a parent meeting is requested. If all of this does not work, the teacher must start the process again: call home, letter, a request for a parent meeting, etc. When/if the student shows, the teachers are expected to catch him up on all he missed.
Graduation 2011 illustrated the failure of our educational thinking. A student walked off stage after being awarded a gold cord. He asked, “What’s this for?”
A teacher told him that it was the Principal’s Cord for Honours.
He asked, “What’s honours?”
Life does not give “do overs.”
What are we teaching our future generations? Many teachers have asked students this question, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”
Most often the answer is “nothing.”
With all of the bureaucratic downloading, student apathy and teacher frustration, it is no wonder many teachers are extremely upset and concerned with the education of their students. Teachers are fearful of what will become of many of the students they have seen. Students lack the motivation, pride and self-discipline necessary to be successful.
Teachers felt that at one time, they helped to instill some of those very traits in their students. We are, tacitly or otherwise, failing our youth by allowing them to reach for the bottom of any endeavour they may or may not have the energy to undertake.
Many have no knowledge of how to deal with failure because the system will not allow them to experience it. It is through failure that we learn new things.
It is through concerted effort that they will develop discipline, independence, and self-esteem; vitally necessary traits for their survival in a society where they will be the leaders.