My sample size is small, but I just cannot find a happy teacher. They are happy with their private lives, but their job satisfaction and enjoyment levels are in the gutter. A recent survey supports this hunch and the anecdotal evidence as teacher happiness is at generational lows. The job is stressful and the challenges are high. I got some dirt from a new teacher in an Indianapolis township grade school (or did I, this could all be made up). This teacher teaches first graders. How bad can it be? Pretty bad, so let's roll on. This is a teacher at a Township school; not the awful IPS system.
1. How big is the class? 30 kids.
2. Does the teacher have a teacher's aide? No.
3. How many people showed up at PTA meetings? 7 people total, including grandparents.
4. Does the class have desks? No. Chairs only. Chairs can have a cloth bag that hangs off the back so the kid can have their stuff in said bag.
5. Do kids have to stay seated during class? No, kids are allowed to wonder off whenever.
6. Can the teacher discipline kids? No.
7. Can the teacher give negative messages to students? No, only positive statements can be made to students.
8. Come on, if the kid acts up enough she can tell him? No, if the kid acts up enough the teacher can invite the parent to the class to sit with their child.
9. Won't that lead to out of control kids? Yes, a kid was expelled in the first week for fighting.
10. No desks, but they have everything else, right? Wrong. Teachers buy books to send home with the kids to read on assignment.
11. Come on, haven't schools been getting more funding? Yes, this school system won a Race to the Top grant.
12. See, that should pay for supplies, doesn't it? Wrong, it does pay for Chromebooks though.
If this isn't a poor school, where does all the money go? That is a great question.
An article by a black pastor or radio personality bemoaned the white flight in township schools. In his mind, the white flight is wrong and racist. Remember, there is NO DIFFERENCE between any child in any trait, so why would those white kids leave??? Parents are fleeing to private schools and other suburbs because of the above. He conveniently skips over the middle class blacks of Lawrence Township who added a new requirement for students: prove your residency. By doing this, they hoped to place a velvet rope around their schools from lower class kids spilling over from the IPS schools. Did not work. Lawrence also instituted magnet schools, which started out as magnet, then forced all elementary kids to go to one magnet or the other. This also coincidentally pushed the growing Hispanic population into the Spanish immersion magnet school. Lawrence Township is now a school where your 16 year old will graduate from the high school, but no way is your 8 year old staying in the system. The question and answer section above is from another township, but it is the same in any of the townships. The IPS schools turned bad, but the Townships were good. The Townships are turning bad, but the next ring of suburbs are good (and brand spanking new).
The Chromebooks, Ipads, laptops and what not are key. The school might be empty and be a zoo, but they have a Chromebook, so with Mastery Learning methods, these six year olds can get a direct education customized to them. In reality, Mastery Learning is meant to limit what is taught. This way all students engage with say six topics, and due to limited breadth of thinking or needed aptitude, you can hammer away at kids so that everyone scores relatively close (close the gap!), and equality is achieved. At a functional level, this really destroys the role of the teacher. Everyone has at least one teacher that helped them, that pushed them or believed in them. What is the teacher for if the Chromebook is going to teach them and a parent has to read to them their assigned books? maybe Google can give kids pep talks. Teaching was once a profession that had a long tenure, building institutional knowledge for the school as a unit. I cannot hear the stories, see the surveys and think teaching, in the future, will exist beyond churn and burn.