Why You Should Vote for Schools

Schools educate everbody; everybody benefits. Educating kids well keeps them off the street, out of trouble. That trouble could be breaking into your house, defacing your property, or worse. Kids who get a good education grow up to get jobs, pay taxes and contribute to the community. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. Education is a community endeavor, not just the responsibility of parents.

Our schools are not terrible. We try to give all students the same opportunities. When you take differences in education systems into consideration, our schools don’t look so bad when compared with schools in other countries. We don’t ‘track’ students. Our test results include all students, not just those who are going to college.

Schools are not capitalistic ventures. Maybe the US isn’t ready for a socialized system for medicine, but we’ve had a socialized school system for two hundred years. Our state schools, in spite of many promises over the years to fix the system, are still funded by property taxes. Changes in the economy impact schools just as they do every individual.

Schools need money. Withholding money from schools will not fix the problems. If you are unhappy with the way schools are being run, look at who’s running them. Don’t punish the kids.

Whenever a levy doesn’t pass, you can almost be guaranteed that some enthusiastic and energetic new teachers have lost their jobs. The ones who stay are those who’ve been there longest. Veteran teachers are not all burned out, but rookie teachers, in spite of their inexperience, have a lot to offer. They bring new ideas and enthusiasm to our schools.

Size does matter. When teachers are let go, class sizes increase. If you believe that class size doesn’t matter, I invite you to spend a day in a public classroom of thirty-six students, the maximum allowed in my district.

See what goes on in that room: notice how much time the teacher has to walk around while students are working and talk with each one, how much time is wasted on ‘crowd control’ – getting students quiet and on-task, dealing with students who require intervention. In a large class, the dynamics are different. Easily distracted kids spend more time distracted than they do paying attention. Distracted kids require attention, which takes time away from instruction. Even in a well-run classroom, kids get less teacher time.

Students in large classes are less challenged. With 150 English students, I won’t be assigning writing as often as I would like. 150 essays is a lot to grade. If I push myself, I can grade an essay in fifteen minutes and still feel that I’m being fair and consistent. That one assignment requires nearly forty hours of grading. I can take papers home, but I’m not paid for that time. Would you work an extra forty hours a week if you were not paid to do so?

Schools are expected to do more with less. We are expected to be social workers and counselors, teach manners and character, provide job internships and help kids apply to colleges. All of these things take more time than we have in a school day, and leave less energy for teaching.

Unions are not evil. My union does not protect incompetent teachers, but works to get them assessed, mentored, and, if necessary, terminated. Our union stands up for us when we are assaulted. A teacher should never hit a student, and deserves to be fired if they do. But if a student hits a teacher, very often the teacher takes the blame — accused of being ‘too confrontational’ or ‘not managing well.’ Students can threaten us, steal from us, vandalize our property with few consequences. Teaching is an underpaid, overworked, and sometimes dangerous job; unions protect us.

Please vote for your local schools. They are not perfect, but they do a lot with what they have. Your community’s children sit in our classrooms for seven hours a day, 180 days a year. What they do with the rest of their time has a huge impact on how well we can do our jobs. We are not teachers because we are paid well or have easy jobs. We teach because we believe all kids deserve a good education. Please help us do our jobs better.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. The Excited Neuron
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 23:21:49

    Nicely said…although I am anti-union. 😉

    The class size is hugely important. At my current school, my largest class has 19 students. This is very small. At my previous place of employment, they typically capped the science classes at 25, which was actually very good for a public school (however, other classes often had over 30 students). Those who have never taught might be surprised what a difference there is between 25 and 19. It’s a WORLD of difference. My class this year of 19 isn’t awful, but it’s not as great as my class of, say, 12.


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