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March 02, 2005

Tonight

Becky is getting pretty seriously burned out at work. Her school district has been mismanaged for years, is in a state receivership, and the current state-appointed administrator is balancing the budget by privatizing one school after another. Her whole job is triage, figuring out which students she can save and letting go of the rest. She's tried saving them all anyway, for the last ten years. Student's mom is on crack, father's a brute, no supper for days, four generations of illiteracy, fetal alcohol syndrome, she's heard all the stories. And she still feels it's entirely her fault if the kid flunks arithmetic.

She came home tonight angry, as usual. Dragged herself to the recliner with a stack of test papers she really didn't want to grade. And I expected the usual routine: a string of cries of anguish over how poorly her "problem" students are doing.

And then her D student turned out to have gotten an A on the test she was grading, and the anger melted away. She's grading the rest of the tests now, and hasn't grumbled or exclaimed in despair once for the last half hour. And she interrupted me just now to say another "problem" kid had scored an A.

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Comments

In the state of Florida we're in the middle of our state-mandated, Bush/McGraw-Hill created, high-stakes "pass or we'll retain your ass" test. Said test will continue through the middle of next week, and students from all over the Sunshine State are collectively freaking out. Also in FL, Jeb has been trying to get vouchers pushed through (they've twice been ruled unconstitutional, but the Republican legislature and governor keep trying), and is deviously trying to undermine a class-size cap that voters approved in 2002.

Here in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, teachers deal with a district that has had its own problems with mismanagement. Our teacher's union is no exception; our previous president embezzled something like a million dollars from the organization. M-DCPS is the 4th-largest school district in the nation, with students from all over Latin America and the Carribean, and is creaking under the weight of a bloated infrastructure.

I currently teach music at two elementary schools; one in an affluent area, and one in a part of town that could reasonably be called "the ghetto." The difference between the two schools is mindboggling, and is a constant reminder of the inequities inherent in our system (both in education and society). The teachers at the latter school really have their work cut out for them, and it's probably not too dissimilar from the situation that Becky is in.

In short, things unfortunately suck everywhere for education and educators.

And yet, and yet... that feeling that Becky experienced while grading papers is just about the best thing in the world. There aren't a whole lot of monetary benefits to teaching, but the intrinsically rewarding experience of watching children learn and grow, and being the person directly responsible for that, is magical.

Becky has just about the most important job there is that doesn't involve health care. She'll be fine... she sounds like exactly the type of person we need in the profession.

Posted by: the_bone at March 2, 2005 09:05 PM
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Magical. That is _exactly_ the feeling one gets when one of your students who's been struggling with something finally _gets it_. It's like a light going off, only not like a flashbulb, but something warmer, longer lasting...

I'm not doing it justice AT. ALL.

I do miss being a part of that. I don't envy Becky all the struggles. I do envy her those magical moments -- sounds like she's earned them. Good for her. Good for them. Just... good. :)

Posted by: Rana at March 2, 2005 10:31 PM
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I love Becky more than I love cake. :)

Posted by: Allison at March 3, 2005 12:20 AM
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I'm so glad those kids have Becky, and so glad she has you (and the pets, of course!) Teaching and parenting have to be two of the hardest professions; I don't do either and my hat is off to those who do, especially the gifted and experienced teachers like Becky who stay at it in spite of burnout, budget cuts, and endless frustrations.

Posted by: beth at March 3, 2005 10:42 AM
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Bless her! (What a stupid thing to say. What I mean is, "I crave her blessing." A bodhisattva of arithmetic.)

Posted by: dale at March 3, 2005 05:29 PM
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becky is a treasure...and thistle isn't far behind!

Posted by: Anne at March 4, 2005 08:50 AM
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