Teaching is hard. Teaching under current conditions is next to impossible. I started this blog as a way of sharing information and to help me process through what has happened to our public schools; our children, our country.
After teaching for two years in the former Soviet Republic of Moldova, I came back to America, eyes wide open; grateful for my experiences and even more grateful for the opportunities provided to me as an American. Presented with a scholarship and the opportunity to further my education as a teacher, I jumped at my first teaching job in the city of Randolph, Massachusetts. For most teachers, their first year is their most difficult. For me, that first year was, by far, one of the best. It was a great environment for a young teacher, the support provided to through my mentors, both formal and informal was far better than what more recent new teachers can imagine; teachers with that kind of know how are a dying breed. The little tricks of the trade they taught me were invaluable, but what really blew me away was their wit and sense of humor. I wanted to be like them, at the end of my career, teaching with energy and rolling my eyes with a smile on my face. Sadly, I don’t think that that will be me.
After taking some time off to be with my newborn, I eventually found myself teaching in my husband’s hometown of San Antonio, TX. That was a learning experience for me. Lacking southern charm and unfamiliar with the school culture, I fell into a state of shock. It was all about the test. Teachers were told that they’d lose their teaching license for failing to comply with test security measures and were offered rewards for high test scores. There was a lot of pressure and teaching wasn’t a whole lot of fun. Failing in more ways than one to acclimate to the culture, I returned to New England.
I landed a teaching job in a small town just outside of Manchester, New Hampshire. Some of my coworkers were a bit prickly in the beginning, but I acclimated and things were mostly fine for a while. But, as things go for teachers nowadays, things slowly changed. It was if a vice was tightening around me. There was more testing, more looking at scores, more pressure. Teaching wasn’t as fun anymore. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I was very uneasy about the way things were going.
One blustery day, finding a rare moment to myself, I decided to swing by the mall. Not being a big shopper, but having a weakness for sweaters, I decided it couldn’t hurt to try the store that I had earlier decided I was too old for. That seemingly simple decision was a game changer.
Focusing on a rack of sardine-packed sweaters, I was a bit startled to hear my name. “Mrs. Sekula!”, called a former student of mine. Sometimes they drive me nuts, but at the end of the day, I loved teaching and loved my students; especially ones like this. Not only was she a very intelligent young girl, but she was respectful, hardworking and helpful; the type of kid you just knew would do well.
Now a high school student, she went on to tell me that she wanted to go to college to be a teacher. I was thrilled! Who better could you get? She would be a great teacher.
My honeymoon teacher moment lasted all of about fifteen minutes. Thoughts racing in my mind, I got back to my car, turned it on, and that’s when reality hit me. I did not want my student going into teaching the way things were. She’s too smart to be teaching to a test. She’s so much more than that as a teacher. That’s when I started searching for answers. Why was it that there was ever increasing pressure to teach to a test? To label students? To hook them up to computers? To label schools and teachers as failures?
Unable to sleep that night, I started writing. As a way of venting, I wrote something satirical about the notion of, “test and punish”. I felt better, but my questions were still unanswered. That’s when I started joining online education groups and sending questions to think tanks.
This blog contains some of my own writing, but also a lot of information that I’ve found or have been given by other very dedicated teachers, parents and researchers. Strength in numbers; if you have anything that you would like to contribute, by all means please send it to me.