Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Teacher's View At 57

While I'm a teacher and this reflects a teachers sensibilities, I think what I have to say applies across our society. I'm tired of change. I know-change is "good for the soul." And certainly change that improves or amends is desirable. But what I am seeing is a society that is so fluid in its affections that change has become the norm. This constant state of change is creating individuals that are insecure in all aspects of their lives and is resonating in the things we see in the classroom.

Let's begin with toddlers. One of the first things someone told me as a young parent is that children need parents to give them both roots and wings. Roots means stability. It means having a family you know, not a parade of insignificant others trailing through your life. It means having your vaccinations when they are required. It means knowing that your parents will focus more on reading and playing with their children than they do with their cell phones or game systems. When I read stories like one locally where a toddler drowned while a woman was playing games on her cell phone, I have to honestly wonder where our priorities lie?

As children get older, too many parents substitute things for time. I'm sorry, I was a working Mom and a stay at home Mom during my younger years. I am not saying this to put a guilt trip on Moms who increasingly have to work outside the home to make ends meet, but....your children need you. And that need doesn't go away because you are too tired, too frustrated or too busy. In schools we see far too many kids raising themselves. And it's not just the kids of low income and middle income families. Too often people get so wrapped up in the acquisition of things, especially things with prestigious labels. Unless you program your child to only seek the most au courant labels, kids don't care if their clothes and toys come from Macy's or Target. And many times the things they claim to want are really just their way of getting your attention. I had to laugh when in a Big Bang Theory episode Leonard claimed to have built a hugging machine when he was a child to substitute for his very frigid mother. But then I think, how many kids just need someone to sit and listen. When I was a stay at home mom, I would have friends of my own kids show up even if my kids weren't there. They asked for help with homework, they wanted a snack, but more than that they wanted someone older and more powerful to listen to them.

As a teacher I see change for the sake of change far too often. Change this system, tweak that one, alter another. In the past year we've changed our grading system, curriculum, school hours, attendance system, three different principals and dress codes. I don't have a problem with improving what we've already got to make it better. But far too often a new crew of administrators get in power and simply change things to make it appear they are doing something. They have little regard for how change impacts down the line. It's difficult to monitor enthusiasm for the start of a new school year knowing that once again the rug will be pulled out from under us. If classroom teachers have one thing we agree on it is this-let us do our jobs. Stop interfering and imposing unnecessary and distracting programs on us. My career is heading toward retirement, possibly sooner rather than later. I'm still a good teacher and I will continue to do my job to the best of my abilities, but I have to wonder what will happen after teachers like me leave the system. I'm simply not seeing the kind of structure kids need. And all the technology in the world won't make up for a system that is so distracted in its own right that we can't capture the attention of our distracted students.

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