I have one of the greatest jobs in the world, but I also have one of the hardest jobs in the world. If you are a teacher, you know what I am talking about. Whenever someone looks at me and says, "It must be nice to have the summers off," I want to punch them in the face. Summer is a break, meaning I don't have students, but it isn't really time off. Teaching is like child birth, you need a little time off before you are willing to go back and do it all again.
People have a lot of opinions about education. I certainly have some of my own. It doesn't matter what label you give it, none of the current plans seem to really address what education in America needs right now. I teach in a small, rural school in a district that has almost 85% of its students on free and reduced lunches. Many of my students come from home situations that I can't even imagine. While I believe that what I have to teach them is important, I also have to accept that it may not be the most important thing to them. Some may be wondering where they will sleep, others what they will eat. Some are wondering if Mom will be high when they get home from school, others if Dad will get mad enough to hit them tonight. Teaching a lesson is probably the easiest part of what I do all day.
I don't know how to fix all of the problems. I don't think more standardized tests are the answer. I also don't think that judging teachers by student progress is the most productive way to fix things, either. Yes, there are bad teachers out there--teachers who don't care about educating and are only there to get the check. However, there are also teachers who will work as hard as they can in their mainstreamed classrooms short of cheating, and they will never get 100% to score at meets or excceds. As long as we test students at their grade level and not at where they are academically, we aren't going to see the kind of progress we want. I can move a child from a third grade level to a sixth grade level, but if they are an 8th grader they will still score poorly on the 8th grade test. Let's look at progress and not a standardized score.
I love my job, all of the parts, good and bad. I get to make a difference in the lives of kids every day. I pray that it's a positive one.