Ms. Myers is a teacher in the Cobb County School System. After reading my column last week on how the state of Georgia seems to be ganging up on teachers, she sent me a piece she had written entitled, "From the Heart of a Teacher."
I suggest you read it before you start blaming school teachers for Georgia's education woes. (By the way, a professor at MIT who runs an education lab wrote to say that what you are contemplating on grading classroom performance is "silly" and not well thought out. More on that later.)
Back to Ms. Myers. She says in part, "The average teacher arrives at work by 6:30 a.m. and does not leave until sometime after 4 (5, 6 ... ). That is, of course, if it is a regular school day. On nights when there is a PTA event, we are at the school until at least 8 p.m., only to be back in the classroom bright and early at 6:30 the next morning.
"We each have about 20 kids - if the numbers are looking good, but most times we have upwards of 25 kids - to teach each day. Each child is unique and comes with their own set of strengths and weaknesses, their own home background (good or bad), their own way of thinking about school and their own way of dealing with their peers.
"Our lesson plans each week must look a certain way and have the correct language (even though the average teacher knows what they are going to be doing to meet the needs of their students without our plans being 14 pages long). We are to teach each subject a certain amount of minutes a day.
"As we teach these subjects, we are to squeeze in benchmark testing, various computer programs, meet with small groups, complete data points and assessments for students on RTI (Response-to-Intervention), writing prompts and, of course, stay on the pacing guide so that you have taught and assessed every standard that will be on the report card for that grading period and I am not including the extras - data spreadsheets, grading papers, the unexpected stomach virus that ravages your classroom, taking care of attendance, lunch count, After School Program sheets, transportation changes, writing and responding to notes in agendas, giving out and taking up homework, making sure they all eat breakfast, bandaging boo-boos, wiping away tears, listening to countless stories that are so important to them ... the list could go on for days.
"After school and during our planning period we must meet. Meet about data (math and language arts), meet about school improvement and meet about school culture, curriculum and instruction, team meetings, Building Leadership Team meetings, meetings to go over minutes from other meetings.
"Let's face it ... teachers bear the brunt of responsibility when it comes to public education. And, to some degree, this is a correct assumption. We are with the students all day. It is our job to educate them. However, we are not often given the freedom to do what is best for our classes.
"The average teacher has students in their classroom that cannot read, write their names, think independently, let alone pass a standardized test on their own. Authentic teachers pour our hearts and souls into these children and when they don't score a magic number on the CRCT we are told to work harder. Or we are told that if we were stronger and better teachers then we would be able to get our kids to pass the test.
"Teachers are working their fingers to the bone in classrooms only to be judged by the government, the parents, the principals, and, unfortunately, by other colleagues. Education should be a team effort: Teacher, Parents, and Students. However, only the teacher is held accountable if things don't go as planned."
To that I say, "Amen."
You show me and Ms. Myers and other school teachers how you will also hold parents and students - and central office bureaucrats - equally responsible for a teacher's classroom performance and I will be your strongest advocate. Until then, consider me a cocklebur under your blanket on this issue.
Have a good session and don't forget to write. Or, if you have no other way to make your point, just sing.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.