Reflections on Teaching, Part Three

*You ought to read “Reflections on Teaching,” Part One and Part Two first.

To wrap this up, in addition to looking back on the changes I have seen in a little more than seven years, and in addition to thinking more and more about how to either maintain whatever level of quality I have had so far or improving the quality of my teaching, I face a lot of confusion. I wrote at length in earlier blog posts about my worries about this fiscal conservative/Tea Party movement, since it will likely mean further cuts to education, because my understanding is that this new group wants to cut government spending on everything.

On Thursday, sitting with my kids and my dad at lunch after going to watch him walk in the Veteran’s Day parade, he said to me, “The problem is they’ve been neglecting the schools for years, and now they’re realizing it and panicking at what they’ve done.” It was surprising to hear him say it, since my dad has always been a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, no-excuses kind of guy. He votes Republican every time and is very proud of it. I told him that it is going to get worse when the cuts start. He just shook his head. I think that, for a minute, we saw things eye-to-eye on a political topic, and we rarely do.

I’m worried. I and thousands of other teachers are being asked every year to do as much or more with less and less. Bad or lazy tenured teachers aren’t the main problem that the schools face. Sometimes, I think that my enthusiasm is waning, and other times I think that I’m only human and the attrition is getting to me. Either way, I’m tired and worried. I do know that.

I believe that if Americans don’t wake up and take holistic and collective responsibility for improving schools, then it will either stay this bad or get worse. The kids we’re shortchanging are going to be taking care of us when we’re old, and frankly I don’t want my nurses and doctors to have scraped by med school with C-level performance. I want all kids, including my own, to get the best and to be the best, now and later.

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