It is with great happiness that I report that yet another distinguished teacher has left her career and chosen to be employed by a company in the private sector. I am happy not because I desire the public school system to fail, but because that distinguished teacher is my wife.
After nearly seven years of her passion for teaching turning to dread, she is free to live her life unburdened by the oppressive hands of incompetent legislators and school board members who wish to micromanage education without actually getting involved with the people in it.
As each passing year of new policies and tests fails to deliver the results they desire, rather than reform their thinking, these officials create new policies and new tests and pile them on top of the old ones. They, with the raising of a hand and a stroke of a signature, applaud themselves for their feigned ingenuity without thought or regard for those who will have to bear the burden of it.
For these officials, who create such policies as differentiation (which is just a fancy word for throwing students of all academic levels into a single class to preserve the precious self-esteem of those at lower levels), do not care to realize that in the effort of preserving the pride of the few they cripple the education of all.
Rather than having to prepare to teach a single class (which is difficult enough), a teacher is given several classes thrown into one and is expected to determine the level of each student and then to create lessons tailored to each student. While this might sound like a wonderful idea to some, the reality is that teachers have neither the time nor the resources to meet these demands. So rather than having the somewhat customized education that students used to receive when divided into classes by ability, the more-able and less-able are educated at the level of the average, so that the less-able are still left behind and the more-able are brought down to average.
Some say that teachers simply need to work harder. Such people are fools and clearly not acquainted with a teacher. If they were, they would know that teachers are some of the hardest-working people. These do not have to see their teaching wives come home from work every day and spend the rest of the night laboring over lesson plans and grading schoolwork. They do not see their dining room tables covered in papers that their wives could not grade at school because their planning time was displaced so that they could give new assessments or play the substitute for the physical education teacher who called in sick.
They do not see their wives turning down social activities on the weekends because they have progress reports to complete. They do not see them pulled away from teaching their classes for hours and days at a time, standing in the hallways of schools and frustratingly giving assessments to individual students on devices that were not designed for such assessments. And these do not see their wives periodically breaking down in uncontrollable sobs because of the ever-increasing amount of work thrown upon them and the effect it is having on their teaching.
To add insult to injury, North Carolina has not one time since my wife has been teaching given teachers the pay increases promised them. In fact, they have been given no pay increases except for a single, 1 percent increase a couple of years ago. Given that the average rate of inflation over the past 10 years has been 2.3 percent, by not giving teachers pay increases that at least match inflation, the state is essentially saying, “We will expect more and more of you with each passing year, but your services are worth less and less to us with each passing year.”
For some reason, the general public seems to be OK with this. There seems to be among them this ingrained notion that teachers are somehow charity workers who should not be concerned about pay. No one enters into teaching to become rich, but, for God’s sake, teachers should at least receive compensation that accords with the salary for which they originally agreed to work. The value of our money today does not equal its value in 2007, but teachers are expected to live on salaries that have been deadlocked there.
I am glad to be one husband who will not have to watch his wife live in incessant anxiety throughout the school year. I am glad I will no longer have to console her when the papers are stacked to the ceiling or when report cards are due to go out. I am glad I will not have to witness another new year with another new assessment and another new policy that further removes my wife from teaching her class just so some politician can have another metric on a sheet of paper.
I am glad because I know others aren’t so fortunate. Some teachers have vested so many years into their careers that leaving now would mean forfeiting their retirement. Unfortunately for them, they have almost no choice, and maybe the state is counting on that.
I count myself and my wife fortunate in that she can still leave. I’m sure that many will follow her, just as many have preceded her, to the utter shame of the state of North Carolina.
Matthew Brown, a banker,
lives in Raleigh.