Letter to the editor: Public education is the great equalizer
As a retired educator, I want to give special thanks to current public school teachers who work with every student every day.
Unlike so many other areas of work, teaching a student is something for which there is no proven formula.
Educated students cannot be mass-produced like automobiles. Students are not copies of each other. Each student is unique and comes to school with varying abilities based on their life experiences. Parents often marvel at the differences between or among their own children who are raised in the same environment.
Imagine having 22 or more students who come from homes with different resources and opportunities. Now, with this example, I want you to imagine the expectation that the teacher should reach all students equally. Who among us could rise to such a formidable challenge?
When developing lessons, a teacher must be extremely competent and creative in order to meet the varied needs of the many students they have in the classroom. Can you imagine developing a lesson that will adapt to each student’s learning style? Some students are more visual while others learn best through an auditory mode. Many students need a combination of approaches to understand a concept or master a skill.
Some students must overcome their own challenges, including learning disabilities, physical difficulties, and/or communication deficits, in order to learn.
Apart from the academic element of teaching, there are a number of issues to be addressed. Classroom management and discipline, for example, are always pressing issues on a teacher’s mind. These questions must be carefully associated with benevolence and compassion.
What a tricky juggling act. It is a very heterogeneous mix of students that make up a class and these same students reflect the uniqueness of our own community. We live in a nation of differences.
I don’t have space in this letter to fully address the outside factors affecting schools – the difficulty of teaching during a global pandemic and the horror of school shootings that have now made drills mandatory for training to ensure the safety of students during confinement. Public schools must compete for state funding as charter or choice schools are now included in the budget. Extreme test practices took away valuable and spontaneous teaching moments. Interactive, hands-on classroom projects and eye-opening educational visits to museums or opportunities for plays and concerts have been abandoned. Fine arts programs where many students excel are being cut due to funding issues.
Today’s educators have an extremely difficult job and society does not provide the proper respect and support. The level of pay is not equal to that of other professions and this in itself is ironic because teaching is the profession that makes all other professions possible.
As citizens, we have a responsibility to support our public schools. We cannot opt out simply because we have no children or our children are adults.
Public schools are the great equalizer. These current students are our future doctors, mechanics, barbers, accountants, chefs and real estate agents. These students will become scientific researchers, astronauts, technology designers and entrepreneurs.
The collective success of these students is imperative. This will impact our quality of life. For this reason, we all have a stake in public education.
We must give students every opportunity to succeed. These achievements are only possible with quality public education.