Bill and Melinda Gates say “Working on reforming the U.S. education system is the hardest job they’ve ever tackled — even more difficult and complex than trying to find a cure for malaria.”
Their hardest job? Are they kidding?
Sitting in an ivory palace pulling school reform ideas off the top of your head is not what I would call hard, especially when you can make everyone else be accountable with their tax dollars for your mistakes (see recent Hillsborough County)!
Mr. and Mrs. Gates need to spend some serious time (not just occasional photo ops with the teachers who adore them) in poor public schools and see what the lives of real teachers and students are like.
Or they should spend time with the many moms of students with disabilities who homeschool not because they want to, but because schools have cut special education services partly due to the message that Individual Education Plans are less important than Common Core State Standards.
Here’s what’s hard:
- Being an over tested kindergartner, not getting any recess, and being made to feel you are a failure before you get started in your schooling.
- Working on a day-to-day basis with students who come from abject poverty, who face all the terrible problems that come with that.
- Being a child with disabilities and being afraid of a high-stakes test (or several) you don’t understand and feeling like a failure!
- Being made to read before you are ready by the controversial close reading that might make you hate reading!
- Being five and carrying the weight of the economy on your back.
- Failing third grade based on one test.
- Being a high school student who has to focus on test-taking and not given ample time to explore real career options.
- Being poor and working only in math and reading with little opportunity to participate in music or art classes.
- Not having access to a whole curriculum.
- Being told as a teacher you do so badly you need to wear ear buds and have someone from the back of the room tell you how to teach.
- Deciding if you can afford to leave teaching because you hate the changes that negatively impact children, including all the high-stakes testing now involving PARCC and Smarter Balance.
- Knowing you have to teach to pay the bills but understanding why parents dislike you for being forced to implement harsh reforms.
- Being told you will have to reapply for the job you need, the career you hold dear, which helps you to feed your family, because your school has been changed to a charter school.
- Being a high school student, who wants to be a real career teacher, but can’t find a quality College of Education program because so many of them have been corrupted.
- Working with overcrowded class sizes because some reformer doesn’t know better and thinks class size doesn’t matter. That person should read the Tennessee STAR Study.
- Being pushed to teach small children about Mesopotamia which you know is developmentally inappropriate.
- Not being able to get to all your students because your paraprofessional has been let go. Knowing you might be on your way out of your job teaching too.
- Not being paid for a Master’s Degree that you spent time and money on to better yourself professionally.
- Needing to take antibiotics because you aren’t able to pee when you need to because your paraprofessional has been let go.
- Working in a crummy school building while a brand new charter school is built down the street.
- Getting judged for your teaching by someone else’s test results.
- Filling out mounds of time-consuming paperwork to keep your school afloat.
- Being forced to focus more on data instead of children.
- Being ignored as a teacher, even pushed out of your job, by a principal from Teach for America or New Leaders.
- Going on a hunger strike for 34 days to save the public school you love.
- Continuously hearing how you fail as a teacher when you’re the only one doing the heavy lifting.
- Having your local school board ignore your pleas to keep your public school open.
- Watching your young students fail the tests because they can’t type on the computer fast enough.
- Knowing how much time you spent learning to be a teacher and watching fast-trackers online course takers take over.
- Being forced to put away your developmentally appropriate student play kitchens, puppets and costumes in kindergarten.
- Seeing your school put money into iPads when there are so many other things needed.
- Working in a school or being a parent who recognizes there is no librarian or media specialist.
- Sending your child to a school that has no school nurse.
- Not having enough guidance counselors to work with you when your student has mental health issues.
- Not having any special education services to offer parents who want them.
- Watching Colleges of Education die when you know they could have been improved.
- Being a student in one of those Uncommon charter schools and knowing if you blink when you are supposed to stare (SLANT) means you will be punished.
- Knowing your democratic public schools are being stolen so others can make a profit and there is little you can do to stop this.
- Learning to speak and understand English should be a joyful event for ELL children, but instead they are pushed to learn quickly in remedial classes forfeiting better experiences for language acquisition.
I could go on with this list but it is tiring. A lot of children and their teachers are not being treated well in a country that should honor both.
And I for one do not understand why the U.S. of America would let a rich individual take over the public schools that should be owned by the people.
So at least I can make this request, come down from your ivory tower, visit some schools, spend a longer period of time talking to teachers and parents about Common Core and the other issues you are involved in, and see what it is really like to face hardship in school.
Bill and Melinda Gates on the Political Debate Over Common Core Standards. PBS. October 7, 2015.
Jeanne Ballou says
I hope they accept this challenge, although I seriously doubt they will. They don’t care about education, only money and the power it can buy.
My challenge to them would be for them to actually take all of the PARCC and SBAC tests (in their entirety for each grade that is subjected to this testing farce) and then publish their results. They won’t. They’re not proficient. At anything. Except narcissism.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Jeanne! I think that would be a good idea about the PARCC and SBAC.
While I am critical of Bill and Melinda Gates, and I am not certain of their real motives, I tend to think they do care about education but hold the ideology that public schools failed miserably. And of course I think they are wrong.
I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate this post. You NAILED it….beautifully. I am sharing it on my FB page for a week…every single day. So many people think the Gates are so “cool” and “amazing”.
Its gross how little people really look into the facts but just get stuck on glamour and certain names. WELL DONE!!
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Heather.
Linda Chantal Sullivan says
While I can easily relate to most everything you have listed here, as has been my experience in my 15 years as an ELL teacher, there is not one mention of English Language Learners here. Where I used to help students learn English, navigate the American school system, dream of their future career and the American Dream, not I try desperately to quell their fears as they take one remedial class after another all day long, and more tests than I ever thought imaginable. ELLs are never thought of during these discussions and yet they are just as important and SPED kids.
Linda Chantal Sullivan says
That should read “now I try”. I wrote not by mistake.
Nancy Bailey says
Linda, I stand corrected! Thank you for mentioning this. I know I have mentioned ELLS before along with SPED. At least I hope so! But I did not do it here, and you are correct.
I will see if I can add what you mentioned in the text. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for children who are learning English to adapt to CC.
By the way, I worked two summers with the Michigan Migrant Education Program when I was in college and it sealed the deal for me to become a teacher. I never saw children and families so committed to getting an education. .
As a Latina woman and student obtaining their Masters in Teaching, I constantly see my ELL students ignored and their abilities underestimated. I am involved with several families in a migrant community, and what kills me the most is many of the high school students I work with struggle through their freshman year of high school and because of such rigid standards they are only allowed to fail one class before they have to start enrolling in summer school. The problem with that is since summer school doesn’t provide transportation and it is not at their regular high school, my kids cannot attend and fall further behind, Then once they “fail” enough, the only option they are offered is a military school that they attend for 6 months away from their family. I have one student in particular who is going away in January. She failed 3 classes her freshman year, and now that she is a junior she loves doing well in school and has all A’s and B’s, we have even explored career options and since she has a love of science may want to go into criminal forensics Because she had a hard freshman year, she is getting pulled away from her family where she is relied upon to watch the younger siblings and her brother will now have to take over this roll and he will be faced with not being able to be involved in extra-curriculars which would help establish his school community. Since the military academy is not accesible through public transportation, it is hard for families to see their child, luckily I own a car and I know the family well enough that we will carpool together.
What I am worried about the most is once that I start my school teaching career, especially since I am training to teach HS Biology, I am nervous that with all the teaching pressures, that I will no longer have time to make home visits to my migrant students without feeling overwhelmed. I feel home visits are important to relate to students, but the school system doesn’t allow for that since it is set up in a system that doesn’t acknowledge how valuable families are to a student. Any advice?
Allan Freedman says
Thanks Nancy – You beautifully articulated what I have been experiencing as a dad with a son who learns differently.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you for speaking out on behalf of children with dyslexia, Allan! Nice to follow you on Twitter too.
Rhonda Espinoza says
Thank you so much for this. Most of the day all I am teaching is Language Arts and Math. Common Core is adding unnecessary time to a lesson and can confuse a lot of students. I’m at a Title 1 school in Las Vegas that has been teaching common core for more years than most and their test numbers are still down. Let’s try to teach the children what they need, and how they need it taught, not following a plan that is going to eventually change just like every other new “program” that has come and gone.
As for Mr. Gates, the education system appreciates his donation, but has he ever been in a classroom teaching our children? Not the “perfect ones” that are put in front of him when he does visits but real students, with learning disabilities, behavior situations and overcrowding on a daily basis.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you for sharing, Rhonda! Teachers are always pulled in different directions, and now it’s by people who have never worked with students and don’t really understand the dynamics of the classroom within a system. So I agree with you. I wish Mr. and Mrs. Gates would reassess how they spend their dollars and commit to really supporting public schools. Good luck in Las Vegas!
Rhonda Espinoza says
What do you do Nancy, when you already are on antibiotics and have been basically since school started? And your administration has changed your grade level each year you’ve been at this Title 1 school, telling you that you were chosen for your flexibility, but then hired two more people in your old position, and you were switched originally due to a teacher personality problem in the grade level with the previous teacher that took your old position? Besides the learning of the new curriculum which doesn’t even use a text book and is completely different from what I’ve seen before along the planning that we have to put on curriculum engine each week, after 16 years of teaching, (14 in one state), the 3 years here increased the burnout and the stress. I relate to more of those bullet points than you know. But who do you talk with? I feel like I continue to reinvent myself each year with each new grade. I now have to set SMART GOALS, and my head is just not in it. How do I get my “want” of teaching back without such the feeling of defeat and such fatigue? And the overall wanting to change?
NY Teacher says
You vent beautifully!
One more for your “What’s hard” list; rarely mentioned but really hard for some kids
Being 8 or 9 or 10 and bearing the responsibility of your teacher’s career and livelihood.
Why should my 9 year old daughter have to spend one second worrying that if she doesn’t do well on the CC math or ELA test that her favorite teacher will get fired?
Nancy Bailey says
I often wonder about this. I think young children might very well put two and two together when their school closes and they lose their teachers. Certainly at 8 or 9 I think they can pick up on this. Thanks for making this point!