When I started, the high school I was at, was a top performing high school in the nation. We were what the kids in the neighboring town called the "Rich, White High School". 3 years ago, a new high school opened in the newer part of town, rezoning was done, and our demographics shifted dramatically. We went from a school where 15% of the students qualified for free and reduced lunch, to a school where over 50% qualify for free and reduced lunch.
I also teach in a town with a major university that has a large influx of Asian and Middle Eastern faculty and students, therefore we have a relatively large portion of Asian and Middle Eastern students as well. They still make up a small percentage of our overall population, but the proportion of those students in our district is significantly higher than surrounding districts.
I tell you all that, to demonstrate that I've had just about every type of student there is and have had a pretty diverse school environment. I’ve had super-rich, I've had homeless, and I've had classes where if I didn't bring breakfast the majority of kids wouldn't have eaten until they got back home. I've had kids who drive brand new Mercedes to school, and I've had kids who have threatened to fight me. I've had kids who can't spell their names and I've had kids that are going to Harvard on a full scholarship. I’ve had every race, gender, sexual preference, economic class, learning level, behavioral issue, and learning disability possible. Trust me....I've had them all.
I got in to this profession because I love to TEACH. I love to challenge kids; I love to make them think. I want to see them grow. I want to see that light come on in their mind when they grasp something for the first time. I enjoy teaching them things that will benefit them academically, personally, and professionally. I became a soccer coach because I love to COACH. I love pushing kids to their best, and making them work hard to realize results. I want to show them how to better players, and better teammates. I try to show them that if we lose, then we get better, not bitter. I think this is why the majority of teachers and coaches get in to the profession; however what I’ve described above is shrinking in proportion every year in relation to the rest of my ever expanding job description.
I wasn’t naïve when I entered education; I knew I wasn’t just going to be teaching. I knew I would be disciplining and counseling students. I knew I’d be meeting with parents. I knew that I’d have meetings and training to attend and so on. It’s the rapid increase of these things, I wasn't prepared for.
I’ve concluded that we’re facing four epidemics, which have combined in to one massive storm and its being dropped on the doorstep of every educational building in America, with the expectation our educational administrators should have no problem handling it. Here are the four epidemics:
The educational System Epidemic - The federal government has been driving the educational system down the tubes for the last 30 years. Continual ambivalent oversight, ever-changing accountability systems, and plain incompetence have hindered the once great American Education System. Education reform under the last two republicans and the last two democrats has been terrible. It has turned our system’s focus on to struggling students, rather than succeeding ones. Look I get it; we want every student to have a chance, however the accountability of those struggling students has been deferred from the student and their parents, to the teacher. When a student is struggling, the state wants to know what it is the TEACHER is doing to help that student, with no regard to anything else. No regard to the student’s effort or their parent’s.
We squash our kid’s creativity. We have to cram everything in to multiple choice tests , have them regurgitate vocabulary words, and we call that learning. Why? Well because if we don’t force feed them material geared towards state testing, then they don’t do well on state tests. When students don’t do well on state tests, then the school is investigated. When the school is investigated, more oversight, more paperwork, and more training are put in to place.
The Societal Epidemic – Classroom’s are filled with teenagers pumped full of ultra-violent video games, access to anything on the internet, and reality show superstars. Some of the biggest celebrities to my students are the Kardashians, Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, etc…Today’s teen’s music is full of sexual, violent, and vulgar ideas and language. I’m not saying movies, TV, and music haven’t always had these things in them, however, the volume, the availability, and the casualness of it, has never been greater.
We’ve allowed Hollywood to virtually skate-by scot-free. The more disturbing something is, the more popular it is. Check out which videos have the most views on YouTube. If someone is continually watching disturbing things, listening to disturbing things, and playing disturbing things, then what do you think the end product is going to be?
We wonder why are kids are becoming more violent and sexual, let’s look at the world we live in.
The Diagnosis Epidemic – Is there a kid in America left who’s not diagnosed with something? Every year the percentage of kids with learning disabilities or on some sort of medication, increases. You wouldn’t believe how many kids I have on Adderall and anti-depressants. These kids are diagnosed with everything you can imagine, medicated, and put in our classrooms. By no means am I saying that there aren’t kids that should be medicated, but the rate at which it is happening is alarming!
The Parenting Epidemic – This is by far the saddest of the epidemics. It used to be that parents and educators were on the same side. We jointly were pushing their child to be their best. We were both holding them accountable for their actions and wanted to see them learn from their mistakes. Now it seems parents are just as confrontational as students. When their child is in trouble or doesn’t do well on a test, they want to know what the teacher did wrong. When their child doesn’t make a team, they want a meeting with the coach to tell them what a big mistake they’re making. Parents are continually making excuses for their children and are too worried about their child’s self-esteem to teach them that the real world has real consequences.