Opinion: Public school teachers unfairly under fire even as our jobs get tougher
This past week, I was reading online about the proposed charter high school opening near my district. Of course, following the article the community is allowed to comment. While there were a few pro public school comments, the rest were pointing their fingers at the "greedy teachers," who do nothing but drink coffee and hide behind the union.
I teach kindergarten in a high poverty district. I live in a high poverty community. Our middle-class children have almost vanished to the charter schools that have popped up in my neighborhoods.
Admittedly, on first glance, our test scores are sad, but there is more to a district than test scores. Achievement doesn't always show up on the state tests, but they show up in the classroom. In my own room, I recently gave another measurement test that had been given in the fall. Every child had made a considerable amount of growth, some children tripled or even quadrupled their original scores.
Being in a public school allows children to see that people come from a variety of backgrounds, different socio-economic backgrounds, different religions, different challenges, and different values.â€¨â€¨
The current state of the economy has made our jobs as teachers, and our children's job as learners even harder than usual. It is hard to learn when you are hungry, or worried, or tired.
It's equally hard to parent when you don't know how you are going to keep a roof over your head, where your next meal is going to come from, or if your children will be safe when you tuck them into bed at night.
â€¨â€¨It's difficult to interest a child who listens to Ke$ha or Insane Clown Pose at home in singing nursery rhymes. If you have watched “The Bride of Chuckie,” my video on "Groak Gets Along with His Friends" seems decidedly uninteresting.
So we as teachers adapt. While developing a classroom routine is critical to make the children feel safe, we also have to keep them on their toes with our method of delivery. We feed their minds, and their tummies. We provide comfort and safety, and hugs, and acceptance. â€¨â€¨
We provide these things to EVERY child who walks through our doors, especially those dozen or so that we get every year AFTER the state count who get told by the charter schools in our neighborhood that their needs might be "better served" by the public school system. Yes it happens. Every year. Like clockwork. â€¨â€¨
So while the charter schools may have prettier test scores than my district, I can hold my head high and know that I pour my heart and soul into every child that walks through my classroom door. I give them my best, every day, no matter how perfect, how needy, how disruptive, dirty, hungry, sad, or scared they are.
I make it my goal to teach them that they can reach the stars, to dream big, and to be nice to one another, because really isn't that what it's all about? â€¨â€¨It hurts my heart to pick up the paper and read that my community thinks that my colleagues and I are just greedy insurance grubbers who live for summer vacation and snow days. (Although I will cop to coveting snow days, I blame it on wanting to stay connected with my childhood, not my greed.)
I live to make a difference to each child who enters my classroom. To be the best teacher I can be, to instill a passion for learning, and a sense of pride in their accomplishments. There is nothing better than seeing the pride on a child's face when they know they have given you their best effort, and they are ready for more. â€¨â€¨I could go on and on but I won't. I've got lessons to plan.
Krista Boyer is a teacher with the Ypsilanti Public Schools. She lives with her husband and five children in Ypsilanti.