By Kathy Palomino via the Dallas Morning News
“So, after 20 years of being a teacher, all I can say is: Help. Write to your legislator about providing funds to lower class sizes. Give us more paid time to plan.”
On Friday morning at 4:30 a.m., I heard the beeps of all my electricity going off. I realized that the ice storm had caused a power outage and that I faced a day with no heat or light. I smiled because I knew that I didn’t have to teach and contentedly rolled over to go back to sleep.
Later, as I cooked on the gas grill, I realized that I must have been experiencing some serious stress — I was very happy to be stranded in my house with my family. It occurred to me that the teaching profession has gone out of control with its demands and that I would never let any of my children entertain the idea of going into the profession.
That said, I have to stress the fact that I work in a supportive workplace, and I adore my students. In my most recent evaluation, I smiled at my boss and told her, “God has been good to me!” And I sincerely mean it.
But in the teaching profession, the pressure of No Child Left Behind has left its mark. The onus of student success has fallen on the teacher, and the student’s own motivation is our responsibility also. Cultural differences, economic differences and parental style differences are the teacher’s responsibility to fix. Too many low scores on the dreaded STAAR test can spell the end of your career — an end to your livelihood. An end to being able to support a family.
Instead of the usual chatter during teacher training, there is now only the silence of shell-shocked professionals. While the presenter reads us another PowerPoint, we stare vacantly at one another and wonder when we can actually get into our classroom to synthesize our learning into lesson plans and activities.
On top of it all, student success is really a top priority for us. I have woken up on many a night in a panic over a student. Did I document problems well enough? Have I truly retaught concepts well enough? And I lie awake for hours trying to plan ways to prevent their — and my own — failure. I have been to students’ houses to take them food or firewood. I have made calls to interpret to doctors. I’ve worked in a charity so that I could search for other ways to better the life of my low-income students. I truly have to say that I have given blood, sweat and tears. And I am not unique — my co-workers are just as caring.
So, after 20 years of being a teacher, all I can say is: Help. Write to your legislator about providing funds to lower class sizes. Give us more paid time to plan. Pay more of our health plan so that it doesn’t cost $675 a month to provide insurance for our families. Pray for us. Above all, don’t let your babies grow up to be teachers until the profession reforms. We’re hurting out here, and something has to change — for the sake of our children.
Kathy Palomino is a first-grade teacher in Rowlett. Her email address is email@example.com.