Monday, March 8, 2010

Change Happens

The newspaper is filled with stories about schools and education. The headlines are all gloom and doom. Public education is failing. Students are failing. United States students rank low in math and science. Graduation rates are low. Budget cuts will be necessary. Districts must cut millions of dollars. Teaching positions will be cut. Curriculum will be cut. Schools will be closed.

And these headlines don't even include the scandals.

With all the negative press, it's little wonder the public has such a dim view of education. Last week, a friend asked me what I thought about about all the horrible happenings she was reading about in the papers. I told her that none of this was new.

When I was a student, there were 13 elementary schools in town. Now there are five. They didn't close overnight. They have gradually been closing them for the last fifty years.

When I started teaching, I was forced to resign at the end of my first year. Thankfully, another position opened, but at the end of my second year, that position was eliminated. Again, I was able to move into a ninth grade job and was there six years, until they closed the school. From there I went to the high school. I didn't have a room. Instead they gave me a small bit of office space in the teachers' lounge and I roved from classroom to classroom for almost ten years.

For years, I was able to stay one step ahead of being laid off, never knowing if I'd have a job the next year or not. During that time, schools continued to close. Other teachers were fired. Job positions were eliminated. There were constant battles every year over pay and insurance. There were scandals even when I was a student.

So when I read all the horrible news, I consider it business as usual. It's unfortunate that the most important institution in the country is the one that seems to suffer the most. But we shouldn't be disillusioned. This has been going on for years. If you've been in the business for a long time, you don't like it, but you know it's not the end of the world. However, if you're new to the business, it's not pretty and it's easy to become disenchanted.

Just remember, everything changes. And every once in a while these changes may actually be for the better. We all just need to keep fighting the good fight. And we need to do all we can to make sure any changes that take place are for the good of the students. I still believe we can make public education better.

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