My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.

“There are more things in heaven and earth…”

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September 12, 2013

Dear Readers,

I was going to try and write today’s post in answer to today’s Daily Prompt: Toy Story.  However, try as I might, I could not fit what I had to express today into What was your favorite plaything as a child? Do you see any connection between your life now, and your favorite childhood toy?

But since I posted it, here are the answers.  My favorite playmate as a child was my sister, Mercy.  And the connection to my life now and my sister is that we have remained close throughout the years and in fact, now live together to see our way clear of the ’empty nest syndrome’.  No favorite toy, no favorite plaything, just my sister, Mercy, or as I used to call her, “Moosie.”

So that answers that.  Now on to bigger and more pressing matters.  I have more things on my mind than just my love life, dear Readers.  I don’t know if it has seemed that way to you, but I think I am writing a bit too much on that topic.  It seems that I have been spending an awful lot of time on who and what is in my heart.  Well, let me just clarify something, I am more than that, always have been.  In fact, I have a plethora of interests, not the least of which is the current state of education in America.

“Schools are failing our children!”  “Public schools are in a crisis!”  “Current public education is flawed!”  “No child left behind!”  “Race to the top!”  “Education reform!”  “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”  Oops, wait, that was Chicken Little.  But wait a minute, that last one there does belong with the rest of the quotes.  In fact, that one probably best sums up the current state of the education reform movement in America today.

I have worked in schools where the population of students has been that of the poverty level.  Subsequently, the students have been not high achievers.  I mean, I have worked with students who have to sleep in their cars because that is the only shelter their parents had to provide.  Yet, they came to school.  I have worked with students who do not eat on Saturdays and Sundays during the school year because there is no free breakfast and no free lunch at home.  Yet, they come to school, maybe only for the food, but they come.  I have worked with juvenile delinquents both in and out of prison.  I have worked with the poorest of the poor, the meanest of the mean, and the hardest of the hard.

Can you see why the population with which I work are low achievers?  I certainly can.  Who wants to learn about the proper way in which to construct a sentence when all that is on your mind is where your next meal is coming from?  How can you concentrate when you have adult charges hanging over your 16 year-old head?  Why should you aim for an “Exceeds” or even a “Meets” on the AIMS (Arizona’s high stakes test) when you know that the only reason you go to school is to make sure your kid brother doesn’t get jumped.  Of course some of my students “Fall Far Below”.  Where else can they fall?

This doesn’t mean that they don’t learn.  Lest you think I am not doing my job dear Readers, I work very hard to create a learning atmosphere for my students in need.  I work very hard to balance the knowledge that I know they will need in the long run, and the empathy I know that they need now.  And the teachers I have worked with over the years do the same thing.  Yes, it is a difficult balance and no, we don’t always succeed.  But trust me when I tell you this, you want me teaching your child.

I know that your child’s beliefs and values come from you.  I respect and honor that.  I do not, nor would I ever, contradict your child’s faith.  I think a child’s home life is sacred, even if your child, as my student, sometimes doesn’t think so.  I believe your rights far supersede mine when it comes to your child.  You don’t want your child to have homework from me?  Done.  You want your child to have more homework from me?  Done.  After all, you are the parent and I will defer to you in such matters.

By the same token, you must defer to me in matters of Language Arts and the education thereof.  I will not let your child miss my class day after day and give him a passing mark.  How can I if he doesn’t do the work?  I will not let your child tell me she can’t do the work because it is too hard.  That is what I am here for, I am a resource.  I will encourage and teach and praise and support your child in all things academic.  I will never say your child cannot go as far as he wants to, academically.

So, what is my point in all of this, dear Readers?  My point is that when I am evaluated by the powers that be, when I am given a less than adequate rating as a teacher because your child “Falls Far Below” in standardized testing, stop and ask yourself, “Is Ms. Kunzmann standing in the way of my child performing highly on his test?”  I daresay that the answer will be a resounding, “No.”  And when the powers that be want to let me go as your child’s teacher because my students’ test scores are too low, stand up for me, stand up with me, and tell them that I was, is and always will be one of the best teachers you child has ever had.  Tell them that we  need more teachers like me who care as deeply and who teach as highly.  Please, tell them.

To paraphrase Hamlet, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of to stop a child from learning.  I just want you to know that I am not one of them.

Peace, ~v.

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