Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A plea to policy makers

11 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
Dear state education officials, politicians, foundation executives, and other education policy makers:

Do you know what I did this afternoon when one of my administrators asked how I was doing? I burst into tears. Why?

I'm tired. Tired of 11-hour days at school... followed by quick dinners and more schoolwork until I collapse, exhausted, in bed. Tired of yearning to improve my teaching craft and collaborate with other educators, but not having opportunities built into my workday to do so. Tired of struggling to meet the demands of decisions made far from my classroom, by people who have never sat beside my students or walked beside me.

I'm discouraged. Discouraged by policies and rhetoric implying that, despite giving every ounce of my time, energy, and love, I'm not doing enough. Discouraged by the demeaning idea that perhaps if someone dangled a carrot over my head, I'd do a better job. Discouraged by the constraints of an antiquated educational system poorly equipped for our modern world. Discouraged because I know my ELL students' unique needs, but I feel like my voice is lost below the clatter of money and the red faces of ideology.

I'm heartbroken. Heartbroken by the stories my students share about the challenges they endure. Heartbroken when struggling students fall through the cracks despite my best efforts, simply because their gaps are too big and our resources are too few. Heartbroken at constantly having to choose which class will get less than my best, because I just ran out of time to give them the activities or feedback they really need. Heartbroken to see my newly enthusiastic readers and writers fret and lose their confidence in the face of dull, arduous tests. Heartbroken as lifeless, isolated numbers replace these vibrant, determined human beings who really have grown so much throughout the year.

So I cry. Sometimes in my classroom, sometimes at home, and yes, sometimes in the principal's office. But crying won't help my students.

So I take a deep breath and open up my laptop, because I love my students.

But we sure could use a little help.


  1. Ahh Jen, I think we are all feeling the pressure and now it is standardized test seasons. I too am ready for policy makers to stand aside and let me teach!

  2. Well said. I hope your principal at least was understanding. Ours is not. :-(

    1. Oh yeah, he was so nice and supportive! I'm really lucky to work in a building with positive, encouraging administrators! I'm sorry that's not the case for everyone.

  3. I think your essay post today should be on NCTM's site and out where the public can read it.
    Most people have no idea really how difficult a good teacher's job is. No idea how oppressive the top-heavy so-called accountability can be. Where's the time to do anything we yearn to do???
    I think your last line might read stronger, something like: "We could use your help."
    I like your honesty. I like the heart.

  4. There is more than one post today that shares your sadness, Jennifer. I'm so sorry that it's that tough. I know you're such a wonderful teacher, doing so, so much for those students. I hope tomorrow will be a better day.

  5. I read this post to my husband and he said, "Wow! That's powerful stuff!" I feel like I have heard similar frustrations from many other teacher friends. Sometimes this aspect of teaching scares me. You are a good example of persevering in spite of the frustrations that come from the "higher ups." Your students are blessed!

  6. Jennifer, I feel your pain! I don't have much time to work with my ELLs because it is our annual testing season. One on one speaking tests take such a long time. Your graduation exams remind me a bit of mine in Finland. All day exams. I wish you a sunny day with time to relax tomorrow! Prayers for strength coming your way!

  7. I'm sorry I missed this on Tuesday. I think we all have those days--we had teachers in tears at school yesterday in our training session and more this morning. You work with your whole heart for the students you serve. I join you in wishing that others (legislators, unions, boards, etc) worked as wholeheartedly for us.

  8. Wow, Jen, this was an amazing slice. I'm sorry for your frustrations, but I also know that you do the very best that you can for your students each and every day.


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