I used to teach 8th grade in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and it was one of the most rewarding and demoralizing positions I’ve ever had to be in. My area was Reading Language Arts, a test-based area.
I love reading, and writing, and wanted to share my enthusiasm of that with children as I taught them. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I found myself deviating from the curriculum because it was a flawed mechanical way of teaching students. Many of the tests that were created by other teachers or the board contained wrong or conflicting answers. It was a surprise to me how incompetent the system was. It was really discouraging to know that I too, was once a student in the same system that I taught.
Besides the flawed methods of teaching, I learned that many of my students were going through more important and more challenging issues at home. I fought hard to try to get the board to see that. I wrote many letters requesting that Superintendent John Deasy visit our school, because it sickened me to see him on the news talking about how much better the schools systems were doing. Not once had he stepped foot in our school. My repeated requests fell on deaf ears and each time he was supposed to meet with some of our teachers, he cancelled.
Determined to make a difference, and to keep my sanity, I quit. Two years later, Deasy quits, after a total of 3 years of service. Maybe he was stressed too. Maybe Bush’s failed “No Child Left Behind Act” left him feeling “out of touch with reality” also. There is no way that anyone can teach in mechanical fashion, when each student is different. And when you teach in a test-based area, as I have, no room is left for you to address each student’s concerns. You have to keep moving because the tests dates will not change, and your student’s performance somehow reflects your grade as a teacher and the school’s grade compared to the rest of the state.
It was one big struggle. I’m shocked that Deasy stayed for as long as he did. I’m not shocked that he’s leaving. I had assistant principals and my principal back me up at the time. But they were sort of silent because I guess I was being considered a rebel. It’s sort of taboo for a teacher to express the realities of what’s going on. So at any rate, I’ll just share with you a video I made while I was teaching, as well as my resignation letter. In the process, I’ll try to find a letter I wrote to John Deasy, saved on the computer somewhere.
Maybe if you have children, especially in a public school, you will try to do more as a parent to get involved. Maybe you can help teachers make a difference in your child’s life. And if you are one of those parents already – a great big THANK YOU!