It has been a week and I am still struggling with how I can explain my experience at Ted. I had the opportunity to meet and interact with such amazing people from all walks of life and parts of the world.
What most took me aback is the negative attitude of people when they found out that I was an educator. I am not saying that they were mean, but they had an opinion about how the educational system needed reforms and were very defensive about it. They were shocked to see that I agreed with them - which allowed us to have a real discussion about education.
I am still shocked about the misconceptions about education. But here are the ones that really set me off:
1. Teachers are over paid - really? I live in Colorado where we pay 49th out of 50 in teacher salaries. Also Colorado is not the cheapest place to live. I know many of my friends who are on government assistance trying to stay in the education filed. I also know many of them who have become single parents who have to leave the classroom just to keep food on the table for their kids.
2. Teachers only work 8-4 - I wish! School starts at 7 am and ends at 2:30pm. During the day, we have meetings that take up most of our planning time. So when does a teacher get any grading or research done to help them in the classroom? At home at night and on the weekends.
3. Teachers have summers off - shocker! I teach until the end of the first week in June and report back the second week in August. During those 8 weeks, I try to get all of my personal appointments for myself and my family made, planning for next years courses, and sometimes teach a summer school class because I have one in college and one in high school. Most teachers that I know have some type of a second job or extra responsibility that helps them pay the bils.
4. Declining test scores are a direct result of teaching - unrealistic! Our standardized test scores are used for teacher evaluation, but not for students. The students have no interest in doing well on the tests and some have tanked certain sections so that the school would fire a certain teacher. How backwards is that the test that they take has no impact on them? How do we make it real for them when in actuality, it means nothing to them and they have no consequences for their actions on the tests.
5. Schools need to cut spending - impossible. My department asks that all students buy the books that we teach in the classroom for many reasons. One of them is that annotating texts is an important skill that the students need to start understanding. But realistically, I could not buy the books for the kids to use if they did not. Over the past three years, my department budget has been an average of $300 for eight teachers teaching over 900 students. We need more! We need paper, pens, pencils, folders. and expo markers. We also need technology to keep the kids engaged and prepare them for the world outside the classroom. We also need to provide training and support for our teachers to use the technology in appropriate and challenging ways.
These are my top five, but there are more. The sad statement is when my daughter told me that she wanted to be a teacher, I was more sad than happy. I have no idea what the system will look like when she gets out of college. I can hope for a better future, but I don't see it happening.