The Importance of a Good Teacher
The countdown for the end of the school year is coming to a close, and many teachers, such as myself, are slowly crawling to the finish line, awaiting the sweet freedom of summer vacations. Currently, it’s Teacher Appreciation Week, as I’m reminded by Facebook through people’s “appreciative” Facebook posts and my school feeding us throughout the week. It wasn’t like this throughout the year, actually. Sure, call us pampered for getting fed, but we deserve it. Consider a number of hours we have invested in helping your children. We may not be architects designing humongous and elaborate buildings such as those present in cities like Singapore or Dubai, but we break ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually to help your son/daughter grasp on information necessary for the future—either that or so they can pass the STAAR exam.
STAAR testing, the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, is now a window closed and shut—or so it’s made to be by higher powers and the general public.
As May closes its end, teachers and students eagerly await results determining if they passed or failed, all while anxieties stemming from testing becomes increasingly apparent on both teachers and students. Regrettably, I wish I could say that the anxiety ends there. Despite having a life outside the school’s walls, teachers work incredibly hard, spending numerous, and unpaid, the amount of hours preparing lessons or tutoring students after school to hone their skills for the day of the test.
Before I continue, consider that previous statement: Hone their skills for the day of the test.
In the state of Texas, STAAR testing has become so ingrained into teaching. The education system has forced teachers to stop everything and focus on high scores for the test. According to Sumita Bhattacharyya, author of “Can You Hear Us? Voices Raised Against Standardized Testing by Novice Writers,” this has become the ultimate goal in mind, claiming that schools depend on the scores due to it affecting school ranking and funding, in which “persistent low scores may attract severe penalties for the school” thus “pressure builds up in the school board and percolates down to the teachers” (634). This is especially present in low-performing schools, where the teachers become targets by pressures from every single corner, though they continue to teach, hiding their hearts on their sleeves.
As I mentioned before, it’s Teacher Appreciation Week—I’m sorry, but teachers should be appreciated Every. Single. Day.
It’s truly unfortunate that no one sides with the teachers. The mass media captures the attention of the general public with smear campaigns against schools; the general public then blames the school districts and school boards; the school boards then pressures the Superintendents, which is then followed by the Superintendents pressuring administration; to which administration then pressures its teachers to go far beyond their limits, and the teachers in turn pressure the students who then have no one to pressure, so they react by acting up in class or just giving up.
It may sound like it’s just students acting childish, refusing to accept authority, but it goes far beyond that. The students who choose to act up, more often than not, resort to this behavior due to an increasing sense of apathy, which then transfers to each other, creating a culture of lethargic students who view the test as a negative and refuse to try. This is a harsh reality that many teachers have to face, and we’re well aware of this, but teachers have no one to protest against because there’s no one who will hear them out except themselves. Even that becomes a conflict of interest because it creates animosity among teachers as to who has the right plan to execute on how to improve scores. So if you think you have an opinion, trust us, we know you do—but you have not seen the inside of the rotting system.
Unfortunately, the system is broken.
At this point, you’d expect for me to provide some method to fix our broken system, and personally, I can’t do that because I don’t know how to fix it either.
No one does.
The general public, the people who firmly believe that by providing methods to “solve” a broken system through incessant comments on social media (you know who you are) always have the right intentions when they suggest what can be done to improve the quality of education. There’s no denying that; however, these intentions will always fall through the cracks. The Department of Education does not take its teachers into consideration whenever they pass anything, and teachers are the workhorses behind the system. Even worst, No Child Left Behind, though the name provides this safety-net that the child is in mind, does not take the student’s knowledge into consideration, especially in schools where the majority of its population consists of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Bhattacharyya continues, claiming “differently advantaged or disadvantaged students call for different approaches to teaching them,” therefore, “standardized testing makes them impossible” (634).
Instead of assisting students, your representatives continue to raise the standards for the test. When I first started teaching, the necessary score to pass the high school English I and II exams were 3750. It is now at 3775 and it’s only going to go up. Like Sisyphus, students are being forced to roll their own metaphorical boulder up a hill only to watch it roll down over and over again. Tell me, if students already struggle at “achieving mastery” with these intangible scores, why would they continue raising the standards?
So from an educator’s standpoint, please take no offense in this question, but if they don’t have the teacher’s best interest and a student’s proper knowledge, do you really think they will listen to you?
Yes, they can, and yes, they should!
So please, understand that reading your comments does not enlighten us. After a long and arduous day of work, we do not go off into the sunset and think “Oh my! According to this guy who commented on the Huffington Post Facebook page, John Smith of Somewhere-In-The-Distance, Texas HAS A POINT!” In fact, it infuriates us because we are more than well aware of all these issues, and to be reminded of it on a daily even after the end of our day is insulting.
It’s Teachers Appreciation Week. Demonstrate appreciation by speaking against these tests, not through the sharing of copy-paste Facebook chains. Speak up by contacting the State of Texas so we can help you and the best interest of your child. Let it be heard that these exams are detrimental to students learning. An expository or persuasive essay, although necessary for the students to learn, are not the only skills necessary for essential learning. Students work incredibly hard to pass these exams, and it is truly heartbreaking seeing how negative these tests impact them on their self-esteem.
Bhattacharyya, S., Junot, M., & Clark, H. (2013). Can you hear us? Voices raised against standardized testing by novice teachers. Creative Education, 4(10), 633.