A VIEW FROM INSIDE OUR SCHOOLS

For anyone who thinks we're exaggerating how we shortchange public education these days: a letter from the inside, in my inbox this morning.. Hope you'll read it.

"My number one issue is Education. My husband teaches 7th grade social studies in Medford.  We have one child at Rogue Community College, one at Ashland High School, one at Ashland Middle School, and two at the John Muir Magnet School.  We have a four year old at home as well. Obviously, education and schools are very important to us.

"It's hard not to notice constantly that all the teachers I know are overwhelmed with work and don't have time to offer their students a great education, because their time is taken up with meetings-so many meetings.  After teaching for almost 20 years, my husband is burned out. He's been struggling a lot lately to keep positive and have the energy required to be a good teacher, father and husband. He has ten more years to go, changing careers is not a choice as he has a family to support.  

"When he started teaching 20 years ago, it was a different world.  His principal was in touch, and had been a teacher for many years herself; she had the teachers' backs.  Teachers were respected, but now are the scapegoats of all problems in our society and are too often not treated with dignity and respect.  There was a teachers lounge where teachers ate lunch, played ping-pong and had time to check in casually about their own lives or about students.  He hasn't eaten lunch in that lounge in ten years. Someone removed the ping pong table, and that's symbolic. Now he doesn't have time to walk across the school to use the microwave in the lunch room because he often has meetings scheduled over lunch or he's required to supervise a lunch club.  He bought a microwave for his classroom so he could heat up his leftovers, but the school told him he couldn't have one so he eats his lunch cold. He has 7:30 am meetings a couple times a week, otherwise is at work by 8:00, and he leaves work on a good day about 5:30 pm. He deals more and more with children who are homeless, parent-less, hungry, who report abuse, who lose parents to suicide or who have parents or siblings in prison.  Especially combined with more and more documentation requirements for new standards, it's just too much! All school teachers are experiencing this trend and the schools need more support! The student to counselor ratio in Oregon is 571:1. How is that okay? Teachers need more support to help students in need.

"My middle school son has reported talking friends out of suicide, talking them out of vaping, talking them out of doing drugs, and has reported several kids for bringing drugs to school.  He's also seen girls treated badly by boyfriends, and reported lots of relationship and sexual pressure. Why is he the one answering these cries for help, guidance, and boundaries? He is 14.  Where are the adults?

"And I haven't even gotten to curriculum.  Elementary teachers greet children with worksheets and seats, there's no music or singing in many elementary classrooms, and children are not getting any significant geography, history, science or foreign language until middle school.  First graders get 15 minutes of recess a day. The focus in elementary school is reading, writing and math above all else. It's not balanced and does not agree with what educators know about child development, what we know about what children need- especially the need for movement, and how they learn.  

"Our schools don't just need more funding, they need more structural support; and we need to take a hard look at what kind of people we want to create, as good grades aren't everything."

Sarah Golden