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.