Next to my family, teaching was the biggest part of my life. I loved it from the day I started until shortly before I left. I loved my students from the day I started until today, and I am lucky enough to still be in contact with many of them. That love is what made me a good teacher. I never taught the subject, I taught the student. I was surrounded by teachers who taught the same way (mother, sister, daughter and several good friends), and we were proud to be educators.
Unfortunately, the politicians decided to use education as a talking point, and teachers became great "fall guys." These men and women who had never set foot in a classroom were so sure that they had all the answers. It was all wrapped up in a pretty little test package. Test the children on their ability to learn the incomprehensible, and test the teachers on their ability to teach the unteachable. While I agree that critical thinking skills are important, these tests never come close to evaluating a child's ability to critically think. The literature and the Socratic discussions we no longer had time for strengthened those skills before we were told to spend more time on test prep. Sitting outside in a circle, enjoying nature and coming up with practical ways to save our planet, and then writing a poem expressing our thoughts strengthened those skills...until I was told that the process was taking time away from test preparation.
Sadly, I realized that teaching what I had to teach was causing more harm than good to these children I cared for, and I could no longer face the very career that I adored. I retired, my sister retired, several of my friends (amazing and creative teachers) left the classroom, and my daughter moved to a private school. We gave it our all for quite a few years and fought a system that frantically searched for someone to blame. There never was someone to blame, because the blame falls on the very system that is taking the humanity and the joy out of teaching and learning. "The system" has always been bad, but through the years it fed upon itself and became dangerous. We need to elect politicians who care more for the student than the statistics. We need to let teachers do their jobs.
Teachers have been facing hardships since the day of the one room schoolhouse (check out Rules For Teachers - 1872) and will continue to do so in years to come. The first book that I reviewed today, Up The Down Staircase, was written approximately a half century ago. Although the technology is different and the kids a bit more worldly now, I related to much of Bel Kaufman's descriptions of the classroom trials and tribulations of a fairly new teacher. I loved the book when I discovered it years ago, and I loved it when I re-read it this week. Teachers, students, parents and those who want a "feel good" book will love it.
In a totally different direction, you will also enjoy Every Second by Rick Mofina. Typical of Mofina's writing, the characters are strong, the plot is engaging and the mystery keeps the reader turning pages well into the night. For those who are fans, this is a winner, and If you have never read Mofina before, do yourself a favor and start immediately.
As always full reviews for these books follow this blog.