School Days

I have one week of class left. It is amazing that I have gone almost this entire semester without writing a single blog post about it. It has been a remarkably average semester which has made it less than noteworthy. Here are my final thoughts.

Private vs. Public
People frequently ask me if I see a difference between students coming from a public school education versus private. This is a hard topic to comment on because so much of this has to do with the school district. However, I work in a well-funded, highly rated public school district, and yet, my private school students are ALWAYS at least one semester ahead of my public school students. My private school students come to college understanding the amount of work and discipline it takes to excel in college. They are prepared to do the research, put the effort in and manage their time in a way that will make them successful. On average, most of my public school kids have no idea. My public school kids complain far more than my private school kids. I don’t know if this would be true in every school district, or every college across the country but my personal experience has been that private is superior.

The Ancient Hobby Of Reading
As an English teacher this is the most disturbing trend – kids don’t read. I recently quoted an article where the CEO of Delta Airlines said that when interviewing future executives he often asks what the last three books were that the interviwee read. When I shared this quote with one of my students who wants to be a pilot he said; “you mean I have to READ too?” Sigh. Yes, reading would be nice. The part of this trend that bothers me most is that girls still read, but boys don’t. Why has our soceity and our school system suddenly cateogrized reading as a “girl’s hobby”? Something has to change there.

Teaching Is Hard
Before I became a teacher I was quick with my criticism and my skepticism. Now, I get it. Teaching is a very difficult profession. It is not diffcult like advertising was difficult. No, working in advertising is STRESSFUL – teaching is DIFFICULT. Why? Well, you are working within a bureacratical system that rivals the government. You truly are a cog in a much bigger, complicated machine that you cannot change without seven forms being completed and the signature of ten people, one of whom is no longer working for the school. You are also teaching people who don’t want to be taught. Students don’t want to be there, they don’t want to learn. No, they want the shortest distance between two points with the least amount of effort. You are trying to excel in a position with an uninterested constituency and an unsupportive system. In addition you are being paid approximately the same amount as your student who is working at Best Buy. Once again, if we want good teachers we need teachers to be paid more money.

Only The Strong Have Standards
When I started teaching I was afraid I was going to be the “easy” teacher. The teacher that everybody liked because I was a push over. I have been surprised to find out that I’m the “hard but fair” teacher. This does not come easy. In my composition class my students write and write and write and write. They also bitch and complain and whine and bitch some more. My three year old does less whining than my 19 year old composition students. And, as any parent knows it is easy to capitulate when you are exposed to that much emotional duress. I expect my students to work hard, read challenging authors (like Walt Whitman – oh horrors) and to write long papers (5-6 pages – I’m a tyrant). When I look at veteran teachers who have lowered their standards I see the signs of resignation. They have grown weary fighting the battle and have ultimately capitulated their standards due to the on-going pressure from their students. It is an exhausting battle. It is because of this battle weary feeling that teachers take long breaks.

I wish I had some wonderful words of wisdom regarding how to fix our educational system, but unfortunately it is not that easy. I’m looking forward to the end of this semester. After a brief four week break I’ll be back to fight the battle again during summer term.

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