I love my students and teaching. I really do. There are just some things on my wish list, not just for my school, but for education in general, that would make so much more sense. So if there is a Santa for education, the following would be on my list:
1. I wish every student had a computer and Internet access at home. It is a digital world and we expect our students to keep up. What concerns me is that the expectations do not take reality into consideration. I allow time in school for computer use for my assignments. However, we have been told that no Internet at home is not an "excuse" and parents need to be taking their kids to the public library to use the computers. Wow, if only it was that easy.
2. I wish that students would understand that they largely hold their success or failure in their own hands. I wish that society would get that as well and stop blaming teachers. I failed more than 20% of my students in two of my classes. Why? I failed them because they did not do the work. Flat out, did not do it. They had opportunities in class, opportunities to make up the work, turn it in late, warnings, calls home, conferences...I did everything I could. When they got F's did the principal call them in and ask them why they failed? Nope. However, I had to create a report that listed each student, why they failed, what efforts I made to get them to pass, and what I'm going to do to make sure they pass this nine weeks. Literally each entry looked like this:
Chris Smith - Grade: 47/F Chris failed because he did not turn in his paper, project or journal. Ample time was allowed in class for each assignment, as well as a window of time where he could turn it in late. Chris often was tardy or skipped class entirely, slept in class, and did not manage class time properly. I signed Chris up for SDS (our study hall where they can use computers and complete work), called home, and conferenced with Chris on his plan for getting the work done. To allow any further opportunities for turning in work late, beyond the final due date, would not be fair to the students who did the work on time, as well as send Chris the wrong message about my expectations for work. My hope is that Chris will understand that there are consequences for not turning in his work and will take this class more seriously next 9 weeks. Further, by not completing his classwork, he is not being properly prepared for the SOL. I strongly feel that to pass a student who will most likely not pass the SOL, just so I show a higher pass rate, is pointless.
Second verse, same as the first.
3. I wish that every child who worked hard and applied themselves, had the guarantee of college/post-high school education. For so many kids, if college isn't an option, high school is a waste of time and something they just get through. If we get to a point in this country where college is truly only for the wealthy, we will never keep up in the global economy.
4. I wish that we had more computers in our school and better Internet access. For all the push there is for 21st-century skills, we are dealing with dial-up speed Internet and a serious lack of computers. The irony is frustrating, to say the least.
5. I wish that I had enough time in each period to do all of the growing list of things I am expected to do in preparation for the SOL.
6. I wish we had healthier options in the cafeteria. The last period of the day would be much better if the kids had a healthy lunch rather than two bags of chips, some french fries and a candy bar.
7. I wish our county had school uniforms. In addition to putting an immediate end to sagging pants and cleavage, it would eliminate the stress that comes with not having the "right" clothes. True story: I would not wear ANYTHING to school unless I saw the popular kids wear it first. Another true story: More than once, I was devastated because someone making fun of my clothes--and my parents weren't poor!
8. I wish every teacher had the supportive network of fabulous professionals that I am honored to work with each day.
9. I wish administrators had to be in the classroom teaching for a certain amount of hours each year, just so they don't forget.
10. I wish every student could go to a home each day where education was a priority and their safety, happiness and comfort was a given. I know way too many kids where this is not the case.
So Santa, if you could help me out...I'd really appreciate it. I'll leave extra cookies in the Teachers' Lounge for you!