The 'Farewell Bonnie Busco' flag ceremony had just ended and the Wasatch Dance program would be the next day. I love spring days like that. Even now, those early sunny mornings remind me of my happy elementary school years. After the dance program we'd always gather our things from our classroom, give our teacher a hug (at least I always did. Jesse probably didn't and he was still always the favorite.) and meet with Mom and Cindy to head to Minuteman for a popsicle. This morning though, I wasn't anticipating going to get a popsicle and dancing the maypole the next day. I was now the mom, pushing my little daughter in a stroller back to my little home a few blocks away.
A few days later, I walked with Hazel again. We were joined by a couple of friends who have children in Elementary school. On our walk we ran into an acquaintance of these friends and they began a conversation about school and teachers. Since I didn't know the lady and Hazel was restless, I took to watching Hazel run on the grass. Conversations like this always interest me though, since I taught school for a year, so while pretending only to be interested in Hazel, I listened. This woman was not happy with the teacher her daughter was going to have for the upcoming year. The teacher was new to the school and this woman was just not impressed. I wondered what could be so wrong with the teacher. The woman proceeded to complain that this new teacher did not even know whether she was going to teach denillion (sp?) or print. When I heard this, I nearly picked up and left. First of all, how many of you even know what denillion is? It is the writing with the curly tails on the ends. It is supposed to help with cursive (which I think is on it's way out anyway). Print doesn't have curly ends. This woman just could not understand why this teacher didn't know which she'd teach yet (I could defend this teacher on why she didn't know yet 'till the cows come home, but I will refrain to move on with my purpose). I was so frustrated by this comment, that I have wanted to write about it since.
I decided to become a teacher because I loved my education so much. Sometimes I wish I could go back to a few days there. Halloween time was always wonderful. I would give a lot to sit on the carpet and listen to Mrs. Lee tell us scary stories again. Or to see Mr. Anderson dressed as a ballerina. Mr. Roberts, our principal, always met us (Katie, Jesse, Steph, Courtney and me) at the front door while morning music was on. "Late again huh Clarks?" We always were. His high fives as we hurried on assured us it was fine. I'd even run the relay race in the Hershey if I could for one more day--and that's saying a lot right now. Life was good for me at Wasatch and since I couldn't relive it, the next best thing would be to create it for others. I decided to teach.
Teaching was wonderful and teaching was hard. Student teaching almost made me run away from the profession forever--I'm really serious. The thing about teaching is that it never leaves you. I would go to work at 7 am and come home at 8 pm and still not be done. That's just it, you can never really be 'done'. There is always more you could do. There is always more to become. Johnny still doesn't get this concept, Sarah is mean to Jill, Billy gets in trouble every day--and so it goes. There is nothing like sitting and reading to children though, and watching them beg for one more chapter. I'd often plan on reading more, but still make them beg because it made me so happy. There's also nothing like watching someone finally catch on to something. I miss those things.
I only taught for a year, and am no expert. But I did come away with some knowledge about schools and teachers that I think is invaluable. Here is my case for public school.
I believe that most teachers genuinely want to be good. I know there are some boneheads that are still teaching and waiting to retire. Truly though, most teachers are trying to do the best they can. They may not know if they are going to teach print or denillion, but gosh darn it, when they decide (or are told by the principal) they'll do the best they can. My advice to parents about deciding what teachers to place their children with is to get into the schools. Don't spy or try to interview (only naive teachers (like me) try to impress parents on those types of interviews. NO teacher wants a child in their class who's parent interviews them). Really get in there and help. If you can't go in and help, be positive, thank teachers and principals and help your child work. Parents that are positive and help around the school have a lot of power with teachers and principals. I had three types of parents come to school on the first day: 1) the overprotective spying type, 2) the supportive trusting type 3) the won't see you 'till SEP conferences (if then) type. I wanted to be the best teacher in the world to all of those kids, but I'll tell you what, I would do everything I could to keep those trusting parents supporting me.
I believe it is important for kids to be with all kinds of kids--high level, low level, rich, poor, black, white, trouble-makers, peace-makers. Why? Because that is the way the world is! We are not all the brightest, richest, most beautiful people. Besides even if we were, we'd better know how to be friends with those that aren't. I think one of the best lessons kids can learn is to be kind and considerate to everyone. I think public school is a good place to learn that. Of course it is important to learn the skills that will help carry us to our future jobs and families, and I believe those skills will come--slow or fast--but they'll come. To me though, I'd much rather know that my children asked someone to play that didn't have a friend, or said 'thank-you' to the teacher than have them be the top reader.
I'm sure I could teach my children well at home. I could prevent a lot of hurt feelings and bad days, I could make sure they knew the whole Declaration of Independece if I wanted. They could win all of the spelling bees, (as a lot of our distrcit-wide spelling bee champs came from being home-schooled) but I believe they'd be missing out on a lot of more valuable lessons and wonderful experiences. Besides, does anyone really need to know how to spell that many words?
Public school is good. I know there are things that can be better--like I said, there is always more to become in education. But I think things are well. Teachers are working hard. Some a lot later into the night than you'd even know (and for the $1600 a month that some of them are making, I think that's pretty hard work). I learned so much from some of these fantastic teachers not only about teaching, but about being good people and really loving others. That is the kind of teacher I want my children to have. I don't even care if they mix denillion and print or happen to completely skip over cursive.