It’s hard for me to believe that school starts in a less than a week. Summers go so quickly. Especially this summer.
Many parents and children are seriously thinking about school again. It’s about time they caught up. Most teachers have long since started working. My indefatigable wife has already worked four full days, though not alone, having also drafted at least one of her long-suffering daughters each day to go with her.
Of course she was never really done with school. It’s just that during the summer teachers can decompress, reflect and plan. A good friend of mine who has returned to Tucson from Texas has spent much of her time looking for a new position though because she is a skilled Special Education teacher her fate was never in doubt. Our ranks of teachers trained to work with special needs students are sorely depleted and the coffer has never been full.
Much of that has to do with the asinine edict that says Special Education students will be tested in their grade level rather than in their ability level. A severely mentally-handicapped eleven year old who has just successfully completed a self initiated toileting objective and can write their first name and the first letter of their last name is tested as a competent fifth grader. Surely there is nothing wrong with that?
Of course the other option is just to refuse to have special needs students in your school. This is happening in Minneapolis. Last year a public school that was failing was closed and a new charter school replaced it. They had a one year agreement that the Special Education students would also be allowed to attend the new school. That school has now told parents of special education students that they will not be attending the new school. You can read more about this situation in an article by Allean Brown in the Twin Cities Daily Planet. 1)
Starting a new school year has a very different meaning for those children and their families.
Meanwhile I am struggling with my first year of semi-retirement watching this flurry of activity with my jaundiced eye and realizing that there are some things that I feel need saying.
First, I want to offer an invitation. For the entirety of my classroom career I had a standing offer. I invited anyone who wanted to, could come and spend a day as a teacher. I would write all the plans, prepare all materials. I would even sit in the room. Just come do my job, for a day. No one ever took me upon it.
I can no longer make that offer now that my role has changed, but I can do this. If you are a legislator, vested with the responsibility of determining the fate of public education in Arizona, come to my school. I will take you around, I will let you go wherever you like. I will personally escort you to each classroom that you would like to see. I will answer every question you have. I am at your beck and call.
Here is the caveat. If you are not willing to actually see what goes on in public school then get your hands off public education and let us work. I am sure you can find things to work on that are more endemic your field of expertise, let teachers decide what is best for education.
Finally, fund education, not just some pet money-making scheme of education but real, public education. You know, for everyone.
There is too much to do, there are too many working extraordinarily hard to do it and we in public education police ourselves much more diligently than any legislature can. If you are among those who think teachers are ever satisfied with their results then you are among those that are wrong.
This is how it has always been. While I am not nearly as persistent as my wife, in years past by now, I would have spent at least a dozen or so hours preparing in my room for what I know is looming. It’s what teachers do.
Our public schools do not need meddlers. If you want to work, fine, volunteer or at least contribute your $200 to your school and get it all back at tax time. If you want to be part of the solution we will welcome you with open arms and put you to work. If not, get out of our way, we have important things to do.