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I have become a traitor (originally posted 22 January, 2010 on DailyKos)

As a public high school teacher, I should have faith in and believe in the ability of the public school system to properly educate a child. However, with private school options, and the increasing number of "elite" Charter schools, I found myself the other day considering sending my own daughter to a private school - or worse, and disgustingly antithetical to my union membership - a charter.  Not only that, but I have come to the realization that, as an unwilling participant in the new teaching strategy implemented in my district, I have become part of the "problem" of public education.

I must, of course, digress as I always do when attempting to explain my position and thought process about something.


I was lucky enough to have my parents send me to a private high school on the east coast.  No, it wasn't any of the ones that enjoy national notoriety; it was actually a religious school, but still, I received a higher-caliber education than many people I encounter on an every day basis, religious influence notwithstanding. Currently, I have no religious leanings, other than a basic belief in the principle of Karma, or in other words, don't be a lying, thieving jerk and treat people how you want to be treated.


That being said, I must say that the whole idea of sending my daughter to a private or Charter school came about because of a random occurrence which resulted in me having a conversation with the Sophomore Dean about private school vs. public school.  She revealed to me throughout the course of the conversation that her children both attend Denver-area private Catholic schools, despite the fact that the Dean herself was raised Buddhist and provides no religious upbringing of any sort in her home.



What else was I to think but that maybe I could do it too (teacher salary aside, many private schools offer financial assistance)?  So being the educated person I am, I sought to educate myself about private schools in the Denver area (as the ones in Boulder are so outrageously expensive that no sort of financial assistance could do a teacher's salary any good at all), and settled on perhaps enrolling my daughter, once she reaches middle school age, in a Catholic Middle school.


But, of course, the question is, "Why?" Well, for several reasons.


First: I can guarantee you that even if a student in a private religious school sends a text message to a friend saying, "Tell [insert teacher's name here] to go fuk [sic] him/herself," the student would not think it was the funniest thing he'd seen all day, and would understand that he shouldn't show the teacher. Therefore the teacher could remain
blissfully ignorant thanks to the student's sense of respect and propriety, an attitude taught - and learned - thanks to classes such as those offered in the local private Catholic high school: ethics and morality. We of course offer no such classes at my public high school.


Second: I want my daughter to have a good education. Par for the course at my high school are students who, through lack of effort or due to pregnancy or myriad other issues, do not actually obtain enough academic credits to graduate, and instead enter an alternative diploma program which basically equates to "Hey, sit here at a computer for a while and produce a few projects and you can graduate." The only real qualifiers? You have to be 16 (which, mind you, is one year short of the dropout age), and you have to fail a bunch of classes. Why provide this? Because everyone wants an easy out. Yes, our district has an "alternative" school also. I don't understand the logic of the dual existence of the alternative program and the alternative high school either. Well, maybe I do, but that's another diary altogether.

Third and probably most deadly to who and what I am: From what I see in my day-to-day existence as a teacher (relating to both students and teachers), I am starting to lose faith in the public school system. Based on that, I would suppose that the war on public schools is about to count me and my daughter as casualties. She will either attend a

private school (if the financial assistance works out), or one of the highly-rated Charter schools in the area - despite the fact that their average teacher salary is 29% lower than the average teacher salary at my school, and the Charter school is non-union.


Since I always try to provide points of comparison, the Charter school's average teacher's salary is 42% lower than the average teacher salary for the comparable high school in their district. Yes, I would send her to that public school if I could. But the median price of housing in the area is $350,000 and far beyond my financial reach.

What is a parent - who is also a teacher - to do? The answer to the teaching portion of the question would seem easy: be the most fantastic teacher I can be for those students who don't have the chance to go to private or Charter schools. Much easier dreamed and wished than done.

As an aspiring teacher, I always wanted to be able to be like my high school English teacher, a woman who spent the majority of her time teaching her students to think critically and to write at a higher level about those critical thoughts.


However, as an "actual" teacher, I've had the unfortunate opportunity to learn my role all too well: Submit to the prevailing wind in a district that repeatedly scores less than satisfactory on the state standardized test. Just the other day I realized that I have become an unwilling participant in the destruction of my very own profession.

I realized my function as a wrecking ball on a night when I laboriously completed the five-page district lesson plan template for every lesson I - and every other sophomore teacher - was expected to teach for the coming week.


For each lesson, the Administrator of Secondary Instruction and Curriculum (as well as all high school administrators) expects to see specific scaffolding strategies (I explain and model how to do it, the kiddos practice, and then they do it on their own). The teaching strategy is good in theory, and also in practice (because teachers have been doing it for years, they just call it different things at different times), except for the fact that they also require that we utilize "engagement" strategies, which are methods of making sure that all students (well, at least 85% or more) are paying attention at all times. The problem comes when I put all of the pieces together (Daily Objectives (content and language), "I do, We Do, You do," Engagement Strategies) and realize that what I've done, in order to appease the District people with Alphabet Soup titles, is dumb down the education of kiddos that are already struggling on the lower end of the "American Dream" scale.


By "dumbing" down the lesson, I become a part of the problem of public education. I've made it so that, no matter how hard they try, my students will never receive the same level of education available to their peers in richer districts.

Therefore, I know better than ever why I cannot send my daughter to a public middle or high school. Based on my experience creating district-approved lesson plans, and based on the catastrophic influence of NCLB and now RTT, there is no competition between public and Charter or Private schools. If I want my daughter to receive an education appropriate for her chosen future as a "baby doctor," I simply cannot send her to a "regular" public school. Despite the fact that I would be doing the best thing for my daughter and her future, the my decision - and the everyday practice in which I participate - leaves me feeling

queasy nonetheless.




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