I know, it’s a weird title for an unschooling website. It’s a weird subject for an unschooling mom to be writing about. But, having taught in public schools for ten years, it’s a piece I feel compelled to write.
Like members of every other profession, teachers span the spectrum from outstanding to completely incompetent. As a student, I experienced all kinds. And as a teacher myself, I worked alongside all kinds. But, at least in my own experience, the excellent teachers outnumbered the lousy teachers big-time.
As an unschooling mom and advocate, I have a lot of issues with our education system. I’ve written plenty about why I think unschooling is a far better choice. But I’ve never written a piece disparaging the dedicated professionals who spend ten months a year trying to help their students excel. Teachers get enough flak from public school supporters. I know. I was on the receiving end for a long time.
In my opinion, teachers have become a convenient scapegoat for a system that is irreparably broken. To force teachers to work within the confines of that system practically ensures that they will remain the ones shouldering most of the blame for our children’s lackluster performance. But it’s an unfair judgement. Our kids aren’t failing because our teachers aren’t doing their jobs.
I was privileged to work alongside men and women who were in it for all the right reasons. They loved and respected children. They were brilliant, innovative, creative and tireless. They fought for their students’ rights, arrived early, stayed late, and spent large amounts of their summer vacation and their own money fine-tuning their craft. And they did it all for an insultingly low salary.
I saw, up close and personal, the frustration so many of them experienced having to force themselves to fit in an ever smaller, more rigid box. As high-stakes testing and state standards took center stage, there was almost no room left for the spontaneous, the creative, and the just-plain-fun kinds of stuff. The stuff, in short, that students probably benefited from the most. Add to this outrageous teacher-student ratios, chronic underfunding, outdated philosophy and methodology, and the myriad of other challenges teachers face, and it’s truly amazing to me that any of them are willing to stick around. Believe me, the so-called 30 hour work weeks and paid vacations really don’t make up for it.
So, why am I writing a piece praising teachers on an unschooling website? Here’s why. As unschoolers, it’s all too easy for us to judge. It’s too easy to paint all schools, and all teachers, with the same unflattering brush. But there’s more to the story.There’s always more to the story.
Are there problems? Yep – big ones. Are there some rotten teachers out there? For sure. But there are also teachers who are changing lives. Who are the best part of a child’s day. Who are truly inspiring.
The reality is, most kids in this country won’t be unschooled. As flawed as our system is, I’m thankful that there are loving, gifted people who are willing to work within it to touch those little lives.
And every once in a while, I think it’s nice to say so. Even on an unschooling website.