Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tell Me Your Story About...Education

[Warning: Rambles Ahead!]

One of my favorite milspouse teachers, Megan Dub-Yuh, is doing a linky to discuss our experience with education, given the recent burst in attacks on teachers and education.

Megan makes a great point about education being a three-part effort.  Effort is required on behalf of the parents, students, and educators.  So many are eager to point the finger at educators for the failures of their students.  I can't stress enough - by the time your student gets to me, s/he is 15+ years old.  If you have not instilled in them respect for authority, manners, and work ethic in the last 15+ years, then please do not expect me to accomplish miracles in 180 days.  I can work with students who have a difficult time with comprehension, who have difficulties with retention, and who are multiple grade levels below in their performance.  If your child refuses to work, is disrespectful to myself or other school personnel, and has no respect for you as a parent, then don't expect your child to have a problem-free year or to be an honor roll student.

I'm a product of public education and I'm damn proud of it.  I did all of my schooling in a town that was 20-30 minutes away from my home, because that was where my mom taught.  The town was approximately 60% Asian/Pacific Islander, with the remaining 40% being a good mix of everything else.  The second year that I was elgible to take the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education), I took the test and passed.  After that I was enrolled in the more rigorous classes in elementary, with other GATE students. 

Our district had a magnet school in the district, which is where my mom taught.  By today's standards, you'd probably consider it a charter school.  It was a college prep, grades 7-12 school - you had to test to get into it and there were strict academic standards.  If you fell below a 2.5 GPA, you were put on academic probation.  If you didn't bring up your GPA by the end of a semester, you were booted back to your home school, simple as that.  Our school was rigorous, but we had the results to back it up.  Every student from our school was heading to a four-year university right after graduation.  Looking at the info pages of my fellow classmates on Facebook is enough to make anyone feel inadequate and unsuccessful - doctors, lawyers, lengthy graduate education stints at Ivy League schools, etc.  I used to scoff at the amount of schooling that becoming a doctor required, only later I counted up my years and realized *I'd* been in college for ten years straight, with further plans to get a Ph.D.

Teaching runs in my family - my mom taught up until her death, my paternal aunt taught, my paternal grandma taught, my maternal grandma subbed, one of my maternal aunts (through marriage) taught, etc, etc.  I used to joke that I was conceived at my mother's school, I spent so much time there.  I have been surrounded by so many wonderful, inspirational teachers my entire life.  These people truly care about their students.  You really can't be a half-assed teacher - those people are weeded out eventually.  You either want to do this job, or you don't.  It's a very difficult career to "go through the motions."  Yes, I know that there are some people that slip through the cracks, but the majority of people in education are here because we want to be.  It's a competitive field these days, just ask Haywee.  Finding an available position is difficult - I applied to at least four or five different districts and only heard back from two schools, and I'm Special Ed, where it's typically easier to get a job.

Ok, enough about me.

Public education works.  I believe in public education, I am a public educator.  I would never homeschool my children.  The benefits of a public education outweigh the negatives for me.  If you are truly trying to prepare your child for success in a global economy, in the real world, they must be in a real world situation every day.  Guess what?  The real world is gritty.  The real world tests you - daily - by putting you in situations where you have to make judgement calls, where your moral teaching is called into question.  You have to choose to self-motivate, you have to learn how to pick your friends, you have to learn how to work with people you don't like.  Public school allows kids to do that in a controlled environment, because once they're out in the real world, anything goes.  Public school requires you to have prepared your child to be independent, because you're not there to protect them.  Hopefully you have instilled good values and confidence in your child.

Set aside all of those students we whine and complain about (who usually have parents we're whining and complaining about too), and you have the students I'd be proud to introduce you to:

  • K,  a 9th grade boy who looks years beyond his age, yet who tells me that how he listens to his parents opinions about his girlfriends and follows them because he "lives in their house."  This same student has the budding patience of a saint, as I watch him work with one of my lowest, highest needs students, and he does so without frustration or harsh words.
  • N, a 12th grader who experienced a traumatic car accident that left her back fractured.  I tutored her for the entire time she was kept out of school, as she fought with her body's desire to give up.  She pushed on and focused on her college algebra coursework, and I saw her attitude change from wanting to give up and stay home for the rest of her school year, to dying to come back to school.
  • To all of the students who have said to me, "Mrs. C, give me something harder," who wanted to be pushed beyond what everyone else thought was possible for them.
  • To students who deal everyday with divorce, poverty, life in foster care, deployment, and mental illnesses and disabilities that affect their daily and academic functioning, yet who still show up to school every day and try their hardest.  These students want to do well, they want to be successful, they want to make you happy and they want to make their parents happy.

As a public educator, I get to celebrate the little successes every day, and these successes are many.  Students still succeed in public education, in spite of all of the factors working against them.  We may not be winning marathon races every day, but with each step toward the finish line, we're making progress and paving futures.


Megan Dub-Yuh said...

THANK YOU! I have tears in my eyes.

Erin said...

C'mon Megan, suck it up! ;) *hugs*

Sarah said...

I'm a product of public education too; at least until college! I didn't turn out too shabby.