Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Florida Teacher’s Essay Becomes Rallying Cry for Respect

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By Cynthia McCabe

When people were attacking her and her fellow dedicated public school teachers, Florida fourth-grade teacher Jamee Miller got mad. And then she got to typing.

The result? An essay called “I Am a Teacher” which caught fire in recent weeks on Facebook and blogs as supporters of teachers attacked by budget-slashing lawmakers and critics trying to score political points took it to heart and then took it online. (Full essay text appears at bottom.)

Shawna Christenson, a teacher in West Palm Beach, Fla., wrote on Facebook after posting it to her own profile last week: “Some folks need to be reminded that we do so much more than leave and enter when the bell rings when they think achievement is the only way to measure us.”

Miller, a National Education Association and Florida Education Association member who has been teaching for seven years, wrote the essay a year ago largely for herself and then put it away. But when the controversial Senate Bill 6 was recently careening through the GOP-controlled legislature, she dusted it off and posted it on Facebook. Education experts said SB6, which Gov. Charlie Crist ultimately vetoed last week to support teachers, would have made Florida one of the most teacher-hostile states in the country. Even though it was vetoed, similar anti-teacher efforts are cropping up in other states from like-minded opponents.

“I was just getting so enraged because there was such ignorance from the people attacking teachers,” says Miller. “Especially these misconceptions about what it is we can actually control as educators.”

Her essay, which in recent weeks was referenced on the Florida House floor, reprinted by several Florida newspapers and went viral online, has taken on a life of its own, Miller says. ”What I’m saying isn’t unique. It’s just that the heart of that message resonates with everyone in our world.”

That’s because in the past year they’ve been slammed by a troubling development: political opportunists attacking public education professionals.

“I feel more than ever I have to be on the defensive to prove I’m not a bad teacher,” she says. “It’s really unfortunate. Even five years ago it was assumed a teacher was great until a teacher wasn’t doing their job.”

And when critics broadly paint today’s teachers as ineffective, there’s no better way to show how wrong they are than pointing to Miller’s own resume. She was Seminole County Teacher of the Year in 2008. Each year she spends $1,000 of her own money on classroom supplies and her students. Last year, she and her husband donated $30,000 to create a fellowship at the University of Florida that helps elementary education majors working toward a master’s degree in education technology.

One of the more noxious provisions of SB6 that upset Miller and her colleagues was a mandate that standardized testing be the primary basis for teachers’ employment, certification and salary. In Florida, students are subjected to a high-stakes test called the FCAT. The law would have further reduced children to a test score and ignored that their lives and their achievements are more complex and nuanced than that.

“To have all that I pour into my students every year come down to just one test is so frustrating,” Miller says. “I have zero problems with accountability. But come into my classroom. I’m eager to show you the realities.”

For instance, this past year, Miller’s realities included having a student who missed 30 days of school, a student whose parents were arrested right before the standardized test day, and a third student who vomitted on her test booklet and was unable to retake it.

What teachers who contact her with their heartfelt thanks want to convey is that they’re just as concerned about the state of public education as anyone else.

“We all want education to be fixed, we just want to be in on that problem solving,” Miller says.

Full text of Jamee Miller’s “I Am a Teacher” essay:

I am a teacher in Florida.

I rise before dawn each day and find myself nestled in my classroom hours before the morning commute is in full swing in downtown Orlando. I scour the web along with countless other resources to create meaningful learning experiences for my 24 students each day. I reflect on the successes of lessons taught and re-work ideas until I feel confident that they will meet the needs of my diverse learners. I have finished my third cup of coffee in my classroom before the business world has stirred. My contracted hours begin at 7:30 and end at 3:00. As the sun sets around me and people are beginning to enjoy their dinner, I lock my classroom door, having worked 4 hours unpaid.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I greet the smiling faces of my students and am reminded anew of their challenges, struggles, successes, failures, quirks, and needs. I review their 504s, their IEPs, their PMPs, their histories trying to reach them from every angle possible. They come in hungry—I feed them. They come in angry—I counsel them. They come in defeated—I encourage them. And this is all before the bell rings.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am told that every student in my realm must score on or above grade level on the FCAT each year. Never mind their learning discrepancies, their unstable home lives, their prior learning experiences. In the spring, they are all assessed with one measure and if they don’t fit, I have failed. Students walk through my doors reading at a second grade level and by year’s end can independently read and comprehend early 4th grade texts, but this is no matter. One of my students has already missed 30 school days this year, but that is overlooked. If they don’t perform well on this ONE test in early March, their learning gains are irrelevant. They didn’t learn enough. They didn’t grow enough. I failed them. In the three months that remain in the school year after this test, I am expected to begin teaching 5th grade curriculum to my 4th grade students so that they are prepared for next year’s test.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am expected to create a culture of students who will go on to become the leaders of our world. When they exit my classroom, they should be fully equipped to compete academically on a global scale. They must be exposed to different worldviews and diverse perspectives, and yet, most of my students have never left Sanford, Florida. Field trips are now frivolous. I must provide new learning opportunities for them without leaving the four walls of our classroom. So I plan. I generate new ways to expose them to life beyond their neighborhoods through online exploration and digital field trips. I stay up past The Tonight Show to put together a unit that will allow them to experience St. Augustine without getting on a bus. I spend weekends taking pictures and creating a virtual world for them to experience, since the State has determined it is no longer worthwhile for them to explore reality. Yes. My students must be prepared to work within diverse communities, and yet they are not afforded the right to ever experience life beyond their own town.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I accepted a lower salary with the promise of a small increase for every year taught. I watched my friends with less education than me sign on for six figure jobs while I embraced my $28k starting salary. I was assured as I signed my contract that although it was meager to start, my salary would consistently grow each year. That promise has been broken. I’m still working with a meager salary, and the steps that were contracted to me when I accepted a lower salary are now deemed “unnecessary.”

I am a teacher in Florida.

I spent $2500 in my first year alone to outfit an empty room so that it would promote creative thinking and a desire to learn and explore. I now average between $1000-2000 that I pay personally to supplement the learning experiences that take place in my classroom. I print at home on my personal printer and have burned through 12 ink cartridges this school year alone. I purchase the school supplies my students do not have. I buy authentic literature so my students can be exposed to authors and worlds beyond their textbooks. I am required to teach Social Studies and Writing without any curriculum/materials provided, so I purchase them myself. I am required to conduct Science lab without Science materials, so I buy those, too. The budgeting process has determined that copies of classroom materials are too costly, so I resort to paying for my copies at Staples, refusing to compromise my students’ education because high-ranking officials are making inappropriate cuts. It is February, and my entire class is out of glue sticks. Since I have already spent the $74 allotted to me for warehouse supplies, if I don’t buy more, we will not have glue for the remainder of the year. The projects I dream up are limited by the incomprehensible lack of financial support. I am expected to inspire my students to become lifelong learners, and yet we don’t have the resources needed to nurture their natural sense of wonder if I don’t purchase them myself. My meager earning is now pathetic after the expenses that come with teaching effectively.

I am a teacher in Florida.

The government has scolded me for failing to prepare my students to compete in this
technologically driven world. Students in Japan are much more equipped to think progressively with regards to technology. Each day, I turn on the two computers afforded me and pray for a miracle. I apply for grants to gain new access to technology and compete with thousands of other teachers who are hoping for the same opportunity. I battle for the right to use the computer lab and feel fortunate if my students get to see it once a week. Why don’t they know how to use technology? The system’s budget refuses to include adequate technology in classrooms; instead, we are continually told that dry erase boards and overhead projectors are more than enough.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am expected to differentiate my instruction to meet the needs of my 24 learners. Their IQs span 65 points, and I must account for every shade of gray. I must challenge those above grade level, and I must remediate those below. I am but one person within the classroom, but I must meet the needs of every learner. I generate alternate assessments to accommodate for these differences. My higher math students receive challenge work, and my lower math students receive one-on-one instruction. I create most of these resources myself, after-hours and on weekends. I print these resources so that every child in my room has access to the same knowledge, delivered at their specific level. Yesterday, the school printer that I share with another teacher ran out of ink. Now I must either purchase a new ink cartridge for $120, or I cannot print anything from my computer for the remainder of the year. What choice am I left with?

I am a teacher in Florida.

I went to school at one of the best universities in the country and completed undergraduate and graduate programs in Education. I am a master of my craft. I know what effective teaching entails, and I know how to manage the curriculum and needs of the diverse learners in my full inclusion classroom. I graduated at the top of my class and entered my first year of teaching confident and equipped to teach effectively. Sadly, I am now being micro-managed, with my instruction dictated to me. I am expected to mold “out-of-the-box” thinkers while I am forced to stay within the lines of the instructional plans mandated by policy-makers. I am told what I am to teach and when, regardless of the makeup of my students, by decision-makers far away from my classroom or even my school. The message comes in loud and clear that a group of people in business suits can more effectively determine how to provide exemplary instruction than I can. My expertise is waved away, disregarded, and overlooked. I am treated like a day-laborer, required to follow the steps mapped out for me, rather than blaze a trail that I deem more appropriate and effective for my students—students these decision-makers have never met.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated by most. I spend my weekends, my vacations, and my summers preparing for school, and I constantly work to improve my teaching to meet the needs of my students. I am being required to do more and more, and I’m being compensated less and less.

I am a teacher in Florida, not for the pay or the hardships, the disregard or the disrespect; I am a teacher in Florida because I am given the chance to change lives for the good, to educate and elevate the minds and hearts of my students, and to show them that success comes in all shapes and sizes, both in the classroom and in the community.

I am a teacher in Florida today, but as I watch many of my incredible, devoted coworkers being forced out of the profession as a matter of survival, I wonder: How long will I be able to remain a teacher in Florida?

Read also An Upset Educator’s Letter to Oprah – ‘Ask Teachers’
and
How Bad Education Policies Demoralize Teachers

Comments

161 Responses to “Florida Teacher’s Essay Becomes Rallying Cry for Respect”
  1. Tiffany A. says:

    I must add to this list that I recently read in a Tennessee state newspaper that the first online high school is set to open this fall. Is our job really becoming obsolete? Their reasoning behind this online school … to better prepare our students for college. Most college students do not have the responsibility, drive, determination, and discipline to complete online classes! What’s going to happen when they turn high school over to the world wide web? I’m not allowed to require students to complete internet based assignments outside of class, because 80% of them do not have access to computers. Yet, we can require them to do their entire 4 years of high school online?

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  2. Lisa says:

    Salesman from CA and Reinhart –
    I certainly understand that all professions are hard & everyone has bosses breathing down their necks & are judged by results. However, in the business world we can fire those below us who are preventing good results from happening. We can’t get rid of the low kids at school just because they’re failing standardized tests and bringing down a teacher’s results.

    As for the person who suggested that teachers who aren’t getting adequate funding should just pick up and move, I seriously laughed out loud at that comment. Then I just wanted to cry. On the simple side, that teacher very well may have a spouse with a job that can’t just be relocated as easily. Secondly, if it were that easy wouldn’t ALL the teachers be fighting to teach in those wealthy, desirable schools? That would create quite havoc, don’t you think?

    Thank GOD some teachers are willing to stick around the crappy places with low funding. They don’t want to leave – they just want some understanding. You said the kids in that city in CA all have fancy computers because their parents pay big bucks for their educations. Well that’s really special and all, but you must have your head stuck in the sand. I guess you must only associate with people who can afford to pay for all of those great school supplies. Not every child is so lucky, dear. So now not only do low income kids have deadbeat parents (or just parents who are – gasp – teachers & make meager pay!) who can’t (or won’t) pay for a laptop computer, but now you want the good teachers to leave their schools to go somewhere wealthier where they’ll get more funding. These very kids you’re depriving of good teachers & supplies are the ones you’ll be supporting with tax dollars years later because they weren’t given the chance at a great education.

    The more we knock our teachers down, the less desirable that job becomes. The less good people who go into teaching, the worse our schools get. The worse the schools get, the worse our futures all get. Even those fancy doctors & lawyers & businessmen once sat in a 1st grade classroom learning to read. Either they were blessed with a home that helped/supported or they had teachers who were mentally, physically, & financially able to create learning environments that helped them succeed.

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  3. Melvetta Wright says:

    Ms. Miller’s essay could have been written by any teacher from across the United States! She very aptly put into words what countless thousands of teachers know to be the truth about what is happening in their school districts, schools and classrooms. What a shame!

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  4. Kris Pugh says:

    What an excellent manifesto! I too am an overworked teacher from the state of Minnesota, pretty upset about the qcomp talk that will tie our salaries to test scores. I watched a news feature recently that spotlighted a foundation that is trying to get volunteers to go into the schools and work with kids in reading. That’s great – I love the idea of my students having some one on one time with a trained individual. But the premise of this organization is that the public schools are not doing their job – the spokesperson said they didn’t know exactly what the problem was – administration, curriculum, or the quality of the teaching. The next thing she said was “children are just not coming to kindergarten with the skills they need to be successful in school”. If they are not coming to school ready to learn, why do we as professional educators need to accept responsibility for their lack of success?!?!? Sounds like a “home” problem to me. There is a great big elephant in the room when it comes to looking at our schools – lack of educational nurturing in the years before they enter the formal educational world. We are expected to take up the slack for parents who have opted to plunk their children down in front of the TV, computer or game system instead of having meaningful vocabulary enriching conversations and experiences. Field trips are a necessary part of our school year simply because parents are not giving their children opportunities to encounter a world beyond their living room.

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  5. Leah says:

    Finally!! That’s all I can say! Finally someone has put into words what I feel on a daily basis. I work in an urban school in Norfolk, VA. I come to school every morning because of one thing…the children. I feed them, hug them, counsel them, cheer for them, clean their faces when their overworked mother forgot that morning. But I get so frustrated with the politics of education that the people downtown just don’t understand. You can’t judge us by test scores!!!!! There is soooo much more going on. Let us teach! And respect us for our craft! And repay us for our craft! I’ve had to multiple times provide backpacks, crayons, gluesticks, paper, materials for projects…what banker or business man has to by from his own pocket ink for the printer!!! Thank you for voicing out the opinions of so many teachers who are pushing along because they love their students and want to make a change in this world!

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  6. Steve says:

    I never post anything on the web, but wanted to tell you that your essay is great and I understand your pain. I am a 4th grade teacher in California. Thank You.

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  7. Brandy Wheeler says:

    I can appreciate everything that you are saying. As I finished my first year teaching, I find myself getting discouraged at the lack of pay, time, and support. Thank you for exposing what most teachers feel.

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  8. Teacher from CA says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  9. Trish says:

    I am a teacher in Ohio. This essay is perfectly stated. Teachers do NOT get the recognition or respect that they did 20 years ago. There is no other profession that I would choose to be apart of. It infuriates me when I hear people say that we teachers have it made, since we only have to work 9-10 months out of the year. Contrary to those beliefs we teachers NEVER really have a break. We bring our work home with us every night, every weekend and every holiday break. And, do it for FREE. We never stop thinking or caring about what’s happening in the lives of our students (even after they move up a grade). Sometimes we’re the only ones that do. We continue to take classes to better ourselves (usually during our “break”). Obviously, we didn’t choose this profession for the compensation( or lack of) or recognition . We chose it, because it’s one of the few professions that one can actually say “I touched a life” or “I tried to make a difference in the life of a child.”

    Thank you, Jamee Miller, for speaking up for us who put our hearts and souls into this profession and for defending what we work so hard for. It’s too bad it’s come to this.

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  10. Pete says:

    I recently moved to Texas from Michigan to take a teaching job, and while the pay I receive there is much better than most places, it is not a large salary. Yet, I have friends who have much less education or inherited their jobs, and make twice as much as me, or more. While teachers have taken pay cuts and pay freezes in the recent years to “save” their jobs and schools, people in the business world keep getting more for working less. I have friends that, the longer they are with a company, the less time they actually work, and all I see are their salaries increased! I’m not talking 32 hrs a week, but more like 20-25, and easily making six figures. They think teachers have it made with vacation, yet I know former GM workers who regularly got 8+ weeks of vacation a year, plus other holidays. As teachers, we don’t have many options for vacation during the year. Plus, we don’t go on extremely cost-ineffective business trips like many of my friends do, where all they do is drink, party, and talk anything but business. The finger needs to be pointed in the business sector of our economy, where money apparently grows on trees and flows out of the faucets in their bathrooms. Teachers and public education do not waste money! For God’s sake, if anything we make the most of what little money we are given and somehow survive on the salaries we earn.

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  11. What an amazing essay. I am a teacher too in Michigan & we face much of the same issues. Way to go! You said what we were all thinking!

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  12. Ms. Harris says:

    One of the biggest problems facing education is the way it is funded. The quality of a child’s education should not come down to where their parents can afford to live. Unfortunately many people feel that as long as their children are getting a good education they have no responsibility to other children. However, we do not live in a vacuum. The education of society’s children is every person’s responsibility, yes even those people who do not have children or grandchildren. The reality is that you will pay for a poor education one way or another. If the resources are not adequate to properly prepare children to be contributing members of society, then the resources will have to appropriated to pay for more law enforcement, jails, drug treatment centers, etc. Adults who have not been prepared to be successful in the work world WILL find other ways to support themselves. These alternatives are not always positive.
    Support education and support good teachers so that the United States can fully take advantage of all of its talents and abilities. Nobody knows where the next great researcher, writer, or scientist is going to come from. Give every child a chance to recognize their full potential. We all benefit.

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  13. Vicky Freund says:

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  16. sue says:

    If you are a teacher, you know what the struggles are each day. I believe that this teacher has given the public prospective on what those struggles are. Other issues are that parents are not supporting their students in school, they fly in when there is a problem and spend very little time with their children or are not paying attention to what these kids are doing in school and out. Teachers are expected to perform miracles each day even in the face of students who are so behaviorally bad that the class can not be conducted because a student shows such disrespect that the rest of the class loses out. Teachers are expected to perform miracles with students who come to our schools not speaking the English language. Teachers are expected to perform miracles with students who have learning difficulties that are so severe that these students should be in classrooms with smaller numbers of peers and a teacher who can devote one on one time to them. Teachers are expected to teach a class of 30, differentiate their learning needs and provide students with their own individual plan each day. Teachers are expected to perform miracles with students who come from homes where they live in unsafe places, bullets fly by their window, have no running water or live in filthy homes that should be condemned, or without food available to them.
    Teachers nurture these students, buy them clothing, feed them, teach them, help them find safety where safety is lacking at home and help them learn to control their behavior and become an active citizen in the classroom.
    So before people start throwing stones, please consider what kind of parent you are, what can you do to help your child, how be involved in a child’s life who may need a mentor or how you can become a steward of education by donating your time or money to a foundation or school who can use your help and expertise.
    If it weren’t for teachers, we wouldn’t have doctors, computer experts, presidents, police officers, lawyers, nurses, scientists……and the list goes on. We should all be thanking them for everything they do, endure and face each day to help these children! Thank a teacher and tell them what an amazing person they are! I would challenge anyone who isn’t a teacher to walk a day in an educator’s shoes….it’s not as easy as you think.

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  17. Teacher in Idaho says:

    I could substitute, “I am a teacher in Idaho” where Jamee has written, “I am a teacher in Florida”, as I’m sure many teachers across the nation could put in the name of their states. But then I’d have to tack on a paragraph about having to take furlough days (14 days this year unpaid) and a second year with no step or lane increase.

    It becomes frustrating when it isn’t your district, but your state government that is trying to destroy education. The district has to deal with what the state government is mandating, and when the State Superintendent of Education and the Governor decide that education is not a priority in the state budget, but roads and prisons are, there isn’t much you can do but grit your teeth and hold on.

    Thank you to all my colleagues out there who are willing to stand shoulder to shoulder to improve the lives of those we teach!

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  18. Keishla Ceaser-Jones says:

    I am a teacher in Texas, and I echo many of her sentiments. Most people think teachers clock out at 3pm and lay around during the summer. Think about it. Most teachers only get 45 minutes a day of planning time. Do you think a teacher can plan and grade all that they do in 45 minutes? Doubtful. So that means that most teachers spend many hours off contract working. Most teachers spend lots of time in the summer training and planning for the new year.

    I would love all the naysayers of the teaching profession to spend 1 month in the shoes of a teacher. If you did, you would appreciate us more. My work day is a nonstop flow of students in and out in groups of 35 at a time. 35 different personalities, attitudes.

    I think all teachers are asking is for a little respect and understanding. I think teachers want to be considered. We are amazed that all of you allow politicians to dictate what happens in education, and the people who went to school to be trained to do the job have very little say.

    We just want a little respect and consideration. And we want this country to put the resources to match the expectations and results they want.

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  19. miss robin says:

    BRAVO Jamee!

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  20. Jen Edhome says:

    I am a 4th grade homeschool teacher in GA. I chose to homeschool not for lack of great teachers, but for lack of great schools. I wanted my son to be challenged and his learning to be experiential, like my own 30 years ago in upstate NY public schools. I wanted him to be able to play outside for an hour or two each day, not 15 minutes on the recess field where there is no playground equipment. I wanted him to be able to take art and music, programs which are continually thought of as unnecessary in our schools. I wanted to take my history-lover to all the Revolutionary War Battle Sites, not to look at a video one day after the tests were done in April and we could learn “real” things. I wanted him to be able to go to school all year, not to have 14 furlough days but still be told “you’d better ace this arbitrary test”! I support teachers financially, politically, and emotionally. I have one student and it is far more difficult than my much-higher-paid former job. What I can’t support is the top-heavy administration, the state and federal oversight of what should be local policy, the 25 year-old tattered textbooks which cannot be replaced, the giant advertisements placed in schools so that more funding can be gleaned, and the one-size-fits-most-teach-to-the-test curriculum that could not possibly prepare our children for anything other than the factory floor.

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  21. Suzanne Barnett says:

    To: Cynthia
    I commend you for writing the essay about teaching in FL. As a fellow
    educator in the same state, I can relate to many of your observations and experiences. However, I think this publication of your essay in the NEA magazine defeats the purpose of “enlightment”; I suggest you submit your essay to a widely distributed magazine like Time, a reputable newspaper and/or politicians in FL. Thanks for your candid thoughts about teaching in FL.

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  22. Marjorie R. says:

    I am a teacher in Massachusetts, and this piece has brought tears to my eyes. An excellent description of the complexity and challenges inherent in the profession of teaching, and how these have been exacerbated in today’s horrific political climate for education. Jamee, you really hit the nail on the head – thank you!

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  23. mabel says:

    Well said Jamee. I would just like to add that whenever someone who is not a teacher comments about our sad salaries by saying, “But you get the whole summer off,” I inform them that I have worked those summer hours during the school year on weekends, evenings, and every holiday break in unpaid overtime.

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  24. Cynthia McCabe says:

    Thank you for reading NEA Today, Suzanne! One clarification: while I’d love to take credit for the excellent essay, it was written by Jamee Miller.

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  25. Gavin says:

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  26. Debbie J. says:

    I am NOT a teacher but I say “Right on Jamee”. I have worked in the school district as a lunchroom/playground monitor for many years, and I can say that most of the teachers eat their lunch at their desks while catching up on work. My son and daughter-in-law are both teachers and holiday dinners are followed up by correcting papers when they should be enjoying their family. The amount of unpaid time they put into their profession is extreme. The amount they get paid is minimal. When you consider that they are forming the lives of our next world leaders compared to the person who plays a sport for a living, the pay (or lack of) just seems unreal. It takes a special person to go into teaching, and I say God Bless each and everyone of you.

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  27. Austin says:

    What a great essay. You have clearly stated what many teachers feel. I was an IT consultant before I started teaching technology at the high school level but I wanted to make a difference and I am doing that. I can assure you that anyone who has ever been a teacher can appreciate the sacrifices that are made to be able to make a difference. Maybe we should pay teachers like we pay pro athletes and celebrities.

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  28. Lori says:

    This is a great essay. Teachers do so much for our children and need to be paid and supported.

    As a parent, I’m so sick of hearing of all these test scores. I’m so tired of hearing about teachers HAVING to teach to a test. That is not what school is about. It is about that child that was reading at a 2nd grade level and is now up to 4th grade. It’s not about a stupid test at all. My son learns from his environment, not from endless pieces of paper or from filling in a bubble. The sum of my son’s education does not come from a yearly test. Why are legislators not listening to the parents either.

    Tests can be useful instruments in checking a child’s progress but they are not end all tools to understanding what a child has learned.

    Also, there has to be more responsibility at home. Parents need to realize their child’s teacher is not the only person that should be teaching their child.

    STOP MEANINGLESS TESTING AND LET OUR TEACHERS TEACH!

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  29. Kennan says:

    …and the irony is that now it is openly admitted that the quandary of disparate standardized tests from one state to another make the results for comparison both invalid and unreliable! Although the constant moving target of curriculum requisites and changing of instruments results in a billion dollar industry for the few major book companies, it doesn’t address the realities that are connected to ‘high-stakes’ standardized testing and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which notes that “the more important that any quantitative social indicator becomes in social decision-making, the more likely it will be to distort and corrupt the social process it is intended to monitor.” (Amrein & Berliner, 2002, The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle Applied to the Social Sciences section). When the ‘high-stakes’ i.e., job and lively-hood are at stake, malfeasance can’t be lurking far behind!

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  30. Kate Kelley says:

    Great essay: honest, heartfelt and heartbreaking. It makes me so angry that teachers are held hostage by their concern for students. The education system relies on teachers working unpaid hours, buying supplies, doing whatever they must to fill the gap between what they need and what they get. I’m much too old to expect life to be fair, but it isn’t fair to take advantage of teachers’ love for their students.

    As for teaching to the test: a colleague was concerned that I had “gone rogue” because my students were doing activities and experiments instead of the sanctioned memorization. I hadn’t gone rogue; the system had gone crazy around me. I retired rather than be driven from the herd.

    I’ll continue to support those who remain in the trenches. Follow Jamee’s example: speak up! Keep the faith, and keep fighting!

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  31. Horace Mann says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  32. Vic says:

    IU am married to a teacher that I consider the most committed person that I have ever seen. She just so happens to have 2 BA’s, 2 MA’s and an additional 30 hours of specialized training. I have for years(we have been married for 23) been talking her into the corporate world. She refuses to leave the education world because she truly understands that she is naking a difference. You see if a person were in the business world with the credentials that my wife has earned they would be earning at least 3 and probably as much as 6 times tha salary that my “highly paid” wife is earning. This of course is not too mention that she cannot turn in an expense reprt to recover her personal expense that business folks do on a regular basis.

    Stupid, gready legislators need to find a way to convince the old people of Florida that the kids that are growing up now will be the guardians of their ertirement and that they should respect and support the teachers that are committed to the same end.

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  33. Ecosto says:

    Here is a link to a rather misinformed editorial about this. You might want to check it out and offer your opinions on that newspaper’s website particularly if you’re a teacher

    http://www.gardnernews.com/?f462df10

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. Melissa S. says:

    After teaching high school for seven years under similar circumstances as Jamee, I guess I should be ashamed to write that I did relocate to a job in a very wealthy and (thus) “highly effective” school because I was about to burnout. Yes, the metaphorical grass is greener, but I learned an important lesson about the American school system. Schools are only as successful as the community in which they are located. Why do some community members and politicians use teachers as scapegoats for their short comings? Community members have as much, if not more, power to improve education as teachers do. Step up and take responsibility for your schools: vote bad board members out, or join the board, or support fundraising, or try showing up for your own childrens’ parent-teacher conferences. Teachers cannot reform education alone.

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  35. Ann says:

    I am a teacher in Virginia. We are getting a paycut this year, less school hours, and more students and yet are required to teach the same curriculum while obligating all the childrens’ needs.

    I will continue to do this, but when will they realize that teachers are only human, and we can only do what we can?

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  36. Teacher from Georgia says:

    Thank you, J. Miller, for taking the time OUT of your busy schedule to write such a heartfelt essay that any one of us could have written. Here in GA we are facing the same issues. We all get to work early (unpaid) and stay late (unpaid) all because we WANT to make a difference in the lives that we teach.

    The budget cuts and the dictations of what to teach, when to teach seem to only be speed bumps that we, as teachers, need to push over together to continue to create an atmosphere of amazing learning.

    I pray that your essay, an essay for all teachers, continues to be read by the right people or gets put in front of the right people. Perhaps one day, those people in suits, will sit back and say, Miller has a good point…education NEEDS the money so what are we going to do to get it to them…..in ALL states?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  37. Debbie Echols says:

    Teachers are in a unique position. Since most adults once sat in a classroom and watched a teacher at work, many feel that they understand exactly what teachers do. Some of these same adults feel qualified to dictate educational practice, analyze student achievement and criticize today’s teachers, simply because they once were students.

    Consider that even though we have all had care from a doctor at some point, few of us would try to devise training and establish policies for the medical profession. And most people would not presume that they could be a better doctor simply because they had observed a doctor at work! Even though I can recognize a good doctor when I have one, I do not imagine that I know more about medicine than they do.

    I only know more about myself and I am proud to be a teacher.

    That is why I believe that teachers are the most qualified professionals to shape and improve today’s educational system. I have been in the teaching profession for 26 years. I have a wide range of training and advanced degrees (early childhood, elementary, middle school, special education, math and science) along with varied experiences. I LOVE what I do. I have been a teacher, a college instructor and an administrator, but I went back to teaching children – not for the money ? but for love of the craft.

    I am proud of what I do and know that I work harder now, than I ever did as an administrator. If teachers filled out time cards, maybe others would see that our summer vacation is merely partial compensation for the many overtime hours throughout the school year. If teachers filled out expense records, maybe they would understand how much teachers spend for their training, classrooms and their students. But, sadly, I do not think politicians want to see the hard evidence of just how much teachers labor and how little financial compensation teachers actually receive.

    I am proud to be a teacher, but saddened that our profession is under scrutiny from those with so little understanding.

    I am proud to be a teacher, and the talent, dedication and perseverance of my colleagues constantly amaze and inspire me.

    I am proud to be a teacher and fortunate to work for a small rural (not wealthy) school system that encourages, celebrates and supports their teachers.

    I am proud to be a teacher, but outraged that a TEST is allowed to measure our student’s progress when this TEST actually promotes discrimination towards those who don’t ‘measure up’ on a standardized test on a given day!

    In the business world, raw materials are discarded if they do not meet standards. In the education world, our students are our raw materials, and they come to us with so many differences in learning experiences / abilities – yet teachers are charged to shape them into similar products? And then we are chastised for their diversity?

    I am proud to be a teacher and I will continue to work hard, teach the curriculum, refine my craft and instill a love for learning in my students. Most of all, I will tell my students in words and by actions, that they are worthy of my time, my efforts, and my compassion and that they are so much more than a test score. Our children are our future and they deserve better than the rhetoric and misguided focus of NCLB.

    I am proud to be a teacher, and congratulate Jamee on an essay well done!

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  38. Jen says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  39. Shannon Cumiford says:

    I was a parent of jr high and high school student in Bay Co, Florida on Florida’s ‘forgotten coast’…at least in education. I now am the grandparent of a 2nd time 1st grader there.
    My younger son was a very high functioning ADHD student who ‘could teach this class’ but could never get homework returned. Not that he did not complete said homework; he simply could not rationalize the importance of the exercise or why if he did the exact same problems every other day of the week why he had to do them again. Then that same thinking stretched to why he had to go to the class. At this time I was in the beginning throes of being a single parent. He was a senior in HS before the principal whom I consider the greatest educator I know, next to my kid sister (Dr. Emily Williams, assoc professor of Educational Psych, Univ of Indiana South Bend), Dr Anita Goodman-Dillard decided to complete an ADHD checklist. By then he was a senior, was on probation but through Dr. Dillard at AD Harris High School in Panama City, FL completed high school and a GED. I can’t tell you what if anything he learned from his classrooms. The first 6 years after HS he knocked around, went to community college for awhile, partied, went to jail, moved to Seattle, drugged and then spent 3 years of those 6 years hitch-hiking 6000 miles from Panama City to Seattle twice.
    He is now engaged to an awesome young woman and this time next year will be the Director of Camp Services at Lakeside Bible Camp, a church camp near Ft Casey on Whidbey Island, WA. He is the #1 choice for this position because A) of his abilities to run a large kitchen and work with young people who don’t have a clue about what they are going to do with their lives or B} have any idea what trouble A) is going to get them into.
    And to think. Drew, (my son) had a principal in jr high who vetoed his membership to a certain church (he’s a senior deacon there) because he knew the young man’s background “and he’s not the kind of person we want around our youth”. He was dating a girl there. This same principal decided students such as my son would be ‘shipped off’ [yes, the words my friend the school's social worker repeated to me] to a school for behavioral [EH] students, “because they’re the ones that keep us from being an A+ school in FCAT, and we won’t accept less”. How can we choose?

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  40. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  41. DJF says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  42. Mr. C says:

    Mr. Lucky had a great comment but people some to not be giving him a chance. Yes there are many problems with our current system, but capitalism is the main one. It does not work for the majority of people, and us teachers fit in the category of it not working. The rich don’t want publicly educated kids to succeed because that would be kids who aren’t theirs. If they wanted positive change, they would have done it years ago. They’re getting exactly what they want. They’re getting a high turnover of angry and disgruntled teachers. This leaves a bunch of overworked teachers who get fed up and quit quickly. Then the kids who need a good quality education can’t receive it.

    Without moving to a socialist society, what needs to happen is raising taxes on the rich and corporations. This will give more money to education and these people should be able to afford it. If they can’t, then that’s their fault that they overextended themselves. By the way. In case you were wondering, yes this is basically socialism. Unfortunately, IT’S WHAT WE NEED! Capitalism is never going to solve this.

    October 2nd is a massive march being organized to get a change in DC. Hopefully this will at least lead eventually to a major third party of some kind (i.e. a labor party). Check it out!
    http://wercampaign.org/2010/07/19/afl-cio-backs-october-2nd-march-in-washington-dc-for-jobs-justice-and-peace/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  43. Paul Hackl says:

    I teach at a well funded, recently renovated school in Ontario Canada. The school is lovely to look at, students are motivated and the teachers are happy. We have 300 computers for 1200 students, books that are less than 5 years old and at least one field trip every year for each student. Why?
    Because the school system is funded by the province, not by local taxes.
    Your system of funding is ill conceived, by wealthy citizens that are unwilling to share their good fortune.
    Push for a change in the funding of schools, state or even federal based, and get the military to hold the bake sales to by a new jet!

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  44. Arthur Melanson says:

    Shawna Christenson has defined a problem. Has she proposed a remedy?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  45. Donna says:

    AMEN, AMEN, AMEN. Well stated!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  46. KC says:

    I am a urban teacher in Tennessee. I totally agree with everything in the essay. We received the “Race to the Top” money, but at what cost? 30% of our “million dollar” salaries will be based on student performance. This will have a profound effect on urban schools.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  47. Dennis Vanderhoef says:

    Jamee is the kind of teacher we are all aspiring to be. True educational reform is methodical and research based. Teachers are responsible for creating life long learners, responsible citizens, and instilling a sense of creativity and pride in their students. Our present system only takes into account the students ability to take a test. Do we really want to create a generation of “great test takers”? I think politicians making educational policy is like auto mechanics fixing medical problems. Both are good at what they do but they should stick to their area of expertise.

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  48. Rhonda Spidell says:

    Thank you for speaking for educators all over the world. Well written and so true!!

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  49. Patrick says:

    I am an elective teacher and I decided 2 years ago to see just how many hours I spent at school. I don’t have many papers to grade, so I just kept track of when I entered the school and when I left for the evening. At the end of the school year, I tallied up the hours on my wall calendar. I had 247.5 hours over the 40 hour week at the end of the year. Again, I teach an elective and don’t grade papers into the wee hours of the night. Ponder this, those of you who say that teachers have it easy and only work 9 months out of the year.

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  50. Melissa Howard says:

    Well stated! Thank you for finally putting into words what I have been feeling all these years! I am a teacher in a low-income district with a very high ESL population, and I wish more people outside of our profession truly understood what it’s like to be an educator. I identified with so much of this essay; working long hours for free, buying supplies and materials out of pocket, and being told how lucky I am to get summers and Christmas off. I invite anyone to shadow me for 1 week; if you can do this job and still tell me by the end that it’s a cinch, then I won’t say another word on this toic. And I mean do everything: RTI/504 paperwork, lesson plans, intervention paperwork and documentation- all of it!

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