America's teachers are beginning to school the rest of us.
They've been speaking out about what it's really like in the classroom, and it's not warm and fuzzy.
They've even marched on state capitols.
They're pushing back against the unrealistic expectations dumped on classroom teachers.
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It's not all about low pay. It's also about the lack of school discipline and administrative support, and the nonsense of measuring success by all-powerful standardized test scores.
This week, a string of teachers came marching through my email account at work.
They sent feedback to a column published Sunday in The State paper in Columbia, "Quit dumping on SC teachers. They're asked to do too much."
I wrote it in early May with a series of stories by McClatchy papers statewide: "Classrooms in Crisis: Why SC teachers are leaving in record numbers."
One thing I said was: "Let's say that anyone who introduces any law or any new fad that tells teachers how to do their job must first serve as a classroom teacher for five years."
Here's what they said:
▪ "I have been teaching for 33 years because I love it ... I have seen changes for the good, but so many that hinder and disappoint teachers. Pay is a big issue, but not the most important to teachers who have been in this profession for any length of time. Most of us knew what we were getting into as far as pay goes when we began our B.S. program in college.
"The biggest problem is not being able to do what is best for our students. This has been caused by several things, but the two main reasons are administration (not having been in a classroom in years and buying programs that sound good, but aren’t given a chance to succeed because the next newest and better thing comes along) and no support from parents, administration, or anyone!
"We just want to teach! Let us do what we know is right and support us!
"I taught fourth grade for years and finally had to say to my administrator, 'I have to teach these children to read before I can teach them higher-level skills.' She supported me and my students did well on tests, but that is the exception.
"We just want to be respected as the professionals we are. No one would think of going into a doctor’s office or an attorney’s office and telling them how to do their jobs. Why is it any different for teachers?! Thank you for your support!"
▪ "Morning. I retired Friday after 30-plus years in education. I would add to your last paragraph, not only serving five years before telling teachers what they need to do, but if one had been out of the classroom for over five years, they should have to go back for some period of time. District office personnel forget what it is like and they would strongly object to having to go back. (I have never, ever seen a single legislator in my schools.) Thank you again!"
▪ "This is not just an editorial about S.C. teachers, but about ALL teachers, as I'm sure you know. Teachers, especially in 'right to work' states such as S.C. and N.C., are afraid to speak out and speak up because there are no unions, and superintendents would say things like, 'If teachers don't like it here, I have 5,000 resumes to choose from.' And he kept on wondering why there were so many teachers taking days off and kept telling teachers to stop doing that. Guess he didn't understand the STRESS that comes with being 'data driven' 24/7."
▪ "I just finished my 16th year in education. I have said from Day 1, that anyone who makes policy for us should step into a classroom first. Thank you also for understanding that this education downfall is not our fault.
"My classroom this year included many different socioeconomic backgrounds. I had one who lives in a house with 14-plus other children. If the adult doesn't cook, they don't eat. I had one who plays tennis at the country club and never had to worry about eating.
"Yet, I am supposed to teach them all the same, so they can pass the socially-biased state tests.
"Until the legislature understands that the standardized test isn't for everyone, we won't ever be ahead in education again.
David Lauderdale: 843-706-8115, @ThatsLauderdale