Volume 2 Issue 1

A Teacher Shares Concerns

by aJeffco Educator

The Jeffco Observer asked me to share a teacher’s perspective on the “State of the District” given the new school board. While I cannot claim to represent every teacher’s perspective, I do believe some universal thoughts exist among the ranks.

The shift in the representation of the school board has made many of the district’s teachers and classified employees anxious to see where the new board takes the district. Yet while there are concerns, the most prominent line of thinking is, 'I don’t have time to fret about the politics of the school board. I need to focus on my job.'

That’s not to say we lack strong opinions. Teachers want a school board that works well together, no bickering, no game playing, few closed door sessions. We want the school board to recognize that the driving force behind all decisions should be, “What’s best for the students?” and “How can we support our teaching staff so that they can in turn provide the best learning environments for our students?”

We want the current school board to recognize the sacrifices we have made over the past three years in terms of pay cuts, pay freezes, and learning to do more with less, not only in regards to personal finances, but also with our school budgets as well.

Many teachers, myself included, spend a portion of our income to buy supplemental supplies for our students. We buy snacks for the students we know don’t always have food at home. We donate to gift and food drive programs. We support the school fundraisers.

We’re stakeholders here not just because we teach the kids, but because we spend a lot of our time and money on these kids and we care about them. We know what bad policies can do to their future. We want the best for them, and we want the school board to do the best for them.

Teachers want the current school board to recognize that more testing does not equate to better teaching. A test is a snapshot of how a given student performs on a given day, not a complete measure of a child’s growth or knowledge. I have talked with third graders who couldn’t sleep the night before TCAP testing and complain of tummy aches at school because so much emphasis is placed on the standardized test. How can 8-year-olds possibly perform their best on a test when they are anxious and sleep deprived? We talk about protected instructional time—perhaps we should look at how much instructional time is devoted to testing versus actual teaching.

We want the board to recognize that good teachers want effective educators as team members just as much as parents, administrators, and the general public want effective educators. Teachers who lack the skills to meet the demands of today’s classrooms create more work for their teammates. They can have a negative impact on the way the whole team is perceived, and can create resentment. We believe in mentoring and goal setting and accountability.

We want a school board that fosters an air of respect for the work that teachers do. We want parents who are willing to establish a partnership with teachers to help their child become a strong, independent and responsible learner, not parents who make unreasonable demands or excuses for their child. We want our planning time to be protected. We need the time to answer phone messages, check e-mail, do paper work and oh yes, plan. (We also would like to have uninterrupted lunches and regular bathroom breaks, but perhaps I shouldn’t get too bold here.)

Most of all, we want to be recognized and respected as the hard-working, dedicated, highly educated professionals we are.