[Valid Atom 1.0] BarbaraEllen: Essays. Why I Left Teaching: Musings on Education & Society.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Essays. Why I Left Teaching: Musings on Education & Society.

.My Passion Was Teaching.

Sequestered in my NYC studio, on the Upper West Side, 5 flights above the noise that syncopates Duke Ellington Blvd. (that part pulled from the memoir I'm drafting...), long after the giggles, gasps, guffaws, and gaggles of school children simmered into nothing, when the night's teachings found a caesura inside my brain, as I grew ill, weakened from the battery of Life, I lay in bed, &

I dreamt. Eyes closed, body awake. Every single night, I dreamt about my first day of school. As a teacher.

Privilege, the first wave to engulf me: the privilege to teach children, adolescents. I was going to change how students viewed the way teachers viewed them. I was going to provide spaces--safe spaces--for students to access opportunities to find a Voice. And all that goes with.

I felt tears in my eyes, hot & salty always, burn. The thought of me being allowed the honor to stand in front of humans and ... teach.

* * *

I began my formal teaching education with a departmental scholarship to Teachers College. In society-speak? I had a scholarship to graduate school at Columbia University, bitches. And I did well. My first-semester student teaching at the equally as prestigious NYC LAB School for Collaborative Studies, I obtained the highest of accolades. My 4.5 GPA equivalent (they don't "do" GPAs at Teachers College. But they do give A+ & Cornell's on the 5.0 scale, so, I took it from there) mirrored this.

Why did I drop-out??? ...Read my memoir.  
(Swear I'm going to publish! Swear it.)

But that I left didn't deter my pursuit to become a teacher. In fact, it propelled it. Or rather, my passion for teaching & for education carried me through a perilous time and, in spite of leaving New York, I graduated in May 2010 with a 4.0 from Nazareth College of Rochester. ...No Ivy League. But a damned good education, nonetheless.

Ah, and so why did I quit? ...All of that money & all of those credits & all that experience & all of the pain that goes in hand, & I hung it up.  And so we begin...

* * *

I cannot begin to list, cite, & expound upon all of the reasons education's being assaulted in our nation. To attempt is to begin a dissertation. So I shall mention only 2:

Assault on Education in America &, Specifically, NYS

1. Standardized Testing: Teaches students to bubble. Teaches students to learn to take tests. Time & space? Yes. Not only college entrance exams, but also sometimes career assessments, require such skill. But not to the exasperated, incredulous, asinine lengths that NCLB, among other educational movements rarely produced by practicing educators, procures.

As an educator, I sought to craft curricula, much like college professors, by bringing to life, a thesis. Coalescing diverse texts and projects with unifying themes, the cumulative of my commentary on academic & real-world skills, where students become editors & critics. 

As an educator, I trusted that the intellect I gleaned while analyzing pedagogy and researching adolescent behavior and studying educational trends would be respected by my public, and so my state and my school.

Standardized Testing defiles this.

2. Catch-All: Why is education the ailment for all woes in our society? I understand funding: federal, state, local. And so tax payer dollars--liquidated society--expect return. But do not tax payer dollars also contribute to other public goods, such as roads, as well as social welfare, such as housing? Why, then, are tax payer dollars, the end-all-be-all, falsely proselytizing Public Education as The Alpha & The Omega? Why is not society equally as responsible for the woes befallen ... society? Education can't fix every thing, and it never will.

As an educator, if a student doesn't complete his or her homework--the every day, or every other day, or once weekly enrichment exercises--it probably means the students has difficulty completing class work. In an English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum, this means big-name-grade assignments like essays or book reports go incomplete. Ergo, said essays & reports relegated to the classroom now become student's homework and, in the vein of old habits falling hard, student fails to complete these, as well. ...Guess whose problem it becomes.

In an increasing 0 tolerance 0 policy amongst many NYS, at least Rochester, districts, the responsibility of students completing homework increasingly befalls the teacher

As an educator, I could be available before school. After school. During students' free periods. During students' lunch periods. I could schedule time for a student to sit in on a class that isn't his or hers. I could communicate with the TA who the school hired to provide students with a period in which to do their homework. But if that student doesn't show. Or if that students doesn't show with a willing attitude... Well then the teacher must be doing something wrong. Class must not be interesting enough. Or Teacher must not be fair enough. Or Teacher must not be flexible enough. Because at the end of the day, that student's 50 (again, 0s are obsolete), is part of that teacher's evaluation.

Or look at our rise in bullying. I do not have to tell any of you Roc readers about the YouTube vid, gone viral, which documents middle school students' harassment of a 69 year old bus monitor, Karen Klein (and the subsequent donations, numbering the 10s of 1,000s of dollars, to honor her and repay her the respect she was denied) . Upon reading about this, via twitter, I tweeted up a storm. As eloquently in 140 characters as I could, I reflected. A sampling:

-Sadly, I know kids like that. Definitely do. Goes beyond hope & beyond schools.

-Old teacher in me: Oh, now these kids feel bad. Ex-teacher: knows they, or those like they, [continue] to ridicule.

-& another thing! stop blaming schools, putting it on schools shoulders, to fix it/discipline.

I want to discuss this last one for a moment. Take a look at the media outlets--who influence society--around you. The WHAM report, the D&C. Probably any report out there you can find which discusses this incident. They all want to know what Greece Central School District and Athena are going to do to reprimand these boys. The school.

Before I expound, please note: this is not a question of fault. Is it the school's fault? Is it the parents' fault? Whose fault is it? That is not the central question that will make this--bullying--better. The central question is: Why is it commonplace to immediately expect the school to have solutions but it is not kosher for the media, or the public, to ask the same from the parents/guardians?

Parents/guardians have no obligation to front. And technically, neither do the schools. But! If schools did not answer that question, posed by the community and so the media, schools would face ridicule. So why then, why, do we only ask these tough questions of the schools? Why not, also, of the communities and families from which these students--or any other in question--come? 

It's not that we create a culture of criticism & blame. It's that we balance our expectations for the culture of school with the culture of community & the culture of home so that genuine healing transpires.

Because, as discovered by my ex-teacher self, we are naive to think the public outcry of humanity, alone, will change any injustice. We need reflection & we need action (praxis: Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire), & we need it everywhere.


  1. babs, this is the best commentary on that incident that i've read so far. love this. love you. <3

    (ps my ancient livejournal account was my best option for logging in...but this is nicole. xoxo)

  2. Hahaha I was like, oh... someone I don't know... Love that, "wishonthestars." Thank you for your compliment & for reading!!! <3 .

  3. Very nice blog honey:X Love it!
    What do you say about t follow each other blog?



Not your typical BarbaraEllen ... but still be constructive. Creative also welcome! xo.