For 14 out of the last 21 years, I’ve taught in Florida’s public school system.
This past week, my governor, despite the urging from our Superintendents, moved forward with HB 7069.
Not only is this bill cutting funding per student, we are now having to share this funding with charters. One of the biggest slaps in the face to me is the idea of a ‘School of Hope’. In essence, charter schools can just grow up around ‘failing schools’. There is no requirement that they have to service high poverty kids.
There is no requirement that they have to be subjected to the same things the local public school teachers are doing. They can basically skim all the kids who are privileged enough to have transportation. Most of those kids are going to be the ones with the support structures to make them the most successful learners. So they get to take our strongest academic performers and then say that they are so much better than we are with a ‘stacked deck’.
This is just one more injustice to teachers and students in Florida. We’ve been at this ‘race to the bottom’ for a while. When Betsy DeVos uses your state as a model for how things should be across the country, you KNOW you’re in trouble. I’m sure you’ve heard about how we tie salaries to standardized testing scores. We retain children in third grade based on one high stakes test–regardless of classroom grades. We grade schools from A – F. We even managed to make recess political.
Last year, I moved to what the media and our state government likes to call a ‘failing school’.
My school is the foundation of a collection of schools in our county’s urban center. It comes with all the challenges of an urban school. We’ve got tons of black and brown kids that live in poverty, too. Often times, when you teach in a non-Title 1, or you’re not in education, the perception is that the teachers in these schools just must not be as good as the teachers in other places where there are more academically successful students. That is fundamentally flawed thinking. We don’t see our work as failure. We don’t look in the eyes of our students and see statistics or failure either.
Let me tell you what we’re not here for.
We don’t need your pity.
Our kids are just that. Ours. We love them. We serve them.
Guess who else doesn’t need your pity. OUR KIDS.
They don’t need people to remind them that their lives are tough. They know.
They need visionary teachers who won’t let them fail.
News flash: There are TONS of teachers that are in Title 1 schools and are getting it DONE with kids. Every. Day.
I’ll tell you something else.
We don’t need your schools of hope.
My school DOES offer hope.
We have teachers that come early and stay late.
We have teachers that are WEEKLY crafting curriculum to meet the KIDS needs. Basically, tailor made instruction.
We have teachers that are making sure their students have food and clothes out of their own pockets.
We have teachers that do home visits and keep parents connected to local resources that would help them.
We have teachers who hold prayer meetings to pray for their kids and their families.
If that’s not hopeful, I don’t know what is.
Let me tell you what we DO need.
We need visionary principals with a plan.
**Principals who know how to stay positive even though it is tough. Principals that can chart growth toward the goal of mastery. Principals who can connect with the kids, parents, and students in a way that makes them feel valued and supported. I work for that type of principal. It’s why I came to this school. I wish everyone had my boss to work for. Truly.
We don’t need to double down on more testing for kids beyond what is necessary.
**Weekly testing. Just stahp! Oh my goodness. WHY? Seriously, how much is a kid going to learn in a four day instructional window?
We need stakeholders to recognize Rome wasn’t built in a day.
**Turning around schools for GOOD takes time. Kids are not machines. They need to be kids too. I’m not trying to snatch up a kids childhood because the district needs its’ pound of flesh in the form of an A or B rating. I would rather have incremental growth towards proficiency any year. That’s the kind of growth that instills a legacy. THAT is what builds a life long learner.
We need more support staff. Actual PEOPLE.
**We need counselors who can counsel. Our counselors are consistently buried in paperwork. When they aren’t engaged in that, they are at a bazillion meetings. I have seen counselors doing group sessions on their duty free lunch breaks–because they want so badly to be able to connect with kids. We need MORE of these fantastic people to share the load and get back to doing what they LOVE–which is COUNSEL.
**A better distribution of resources is going to be key. We need more people in classrooms working with students and helping them. ESE, ELL, Paraprofessionals (TA’s)…we need them to have FACE TIME with kids. Not just working in the cafeteria and laminating teacher resources.
We need to stop doubling down on defeat.
**Across Florida most of the D and F rated schools are in high poverty areas. Failure doesn’t inspire hope.
**Stop failing children based on one stupid high stakes test. Look for ways to move children forward. Give them support to stay with their peers.
Who wants their kids at an F school? Does that inspire pride? No it does not.
What it does inspire is the flight of the high performing, middle class children.
When school culture changes, I don’t care how poor kids are…they will take pride in their school and their academics.
The legislators who crafted this bill are in the pockets of Big Charter, Betsy DeVos and those who would like to see our public schools privatized.
Know that this legislation is less about helping kids, and more about lining the pockets of people who use education to make money.
As long as the driving force behind education is money and not kids, the most at risk kids are the ones who will suffer the most.