Thankful for Our Public Schools

For my readers who don’t live in Los Angeles, here’s what you should know about the last week:

It rained.  A lot.  For consecutive days.  And in L.A., that is news in and of itself.

But on top of that, our Los Angeles public school teachers went on strike.  The last time teachers resorted to a strike was back in 1989.  I was in junior high school (back then it wasn’t called middle school like it is now), and the strike lasted 9 days.

(You can click here to read the post “Guide to the LAUSD Teachers’ Strike” on MomsLA.com for some additional information and photos about the strike.)

This strike is different.  At least for me.  This time around, I view the strike through the eyes of a former public school student, a former public school teacher, and a current public school parent.

So for the first time in his school career, my son didn’t attend school on days he was well.  We discussed it as a family and we all decided that in support of our teachers, we weren’t crossing the picket line.  (And in all honesty, there was little to no real learning going on at these under-staffed school campuses, and as the strike continued, student attendance continued to decline.) 

Much of what our teachers are fighting for hasn’t changed since the last strike.  Our teachers want what is best for our children.  Smaller class sizes.  Less testing and more teaching.  More support staff, including a full-time nurse each day. 

Our public school classrooms are marvels.  I miss the magic of being in a classroom with a group of children and seeing that spark, seeing that light bulb go off, seeing the understanding.  There is nothing like it.  Our teachers don’t want to be outside their schools picketing.  They want to be inside their rooms teaching.  The sooner, the better.

And on that note, I’d like to share a post I wrote several years ago.  I think during this time especially, it’s important to remember just how valuable our public schools are.  Click here to read my essay, “6 Reasons Why We Should Be Thankful For Public Schools.”

A Tribute to Teachers

 

Though I left my teaching career five years ago, there are still many aspects of teaching I really miss.  There’s a special sort of magic that happens when you connect with a child, and that’s why I still enjoy reading about teachers who love teaching.

Recently I read Phillip Done’s memoir Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind – Thoughts on Teacherhood, and I’d like to share with you some of the passages that stood out for me.

“What exactly is a teacher anyway?  A lot of different things.  Teachers are like puppeteers.  We keep the show in motion.  When we help children discover abilities that they don’t know they have, we are like talent scouts.  When we herd kids off the play structure at the end of recess, we are like shepherds.  Teachers are like farmers.  We sow the seeds – not too close together or they’ll talk too much.  We check on them every day and monitor their progress.  We think about our crop all the time.  When we see growth – we get excited.”

“Teachers are word warriors.  All day long we explain, correct, examine, define, recite, check, decipher, sound out, spell, clap, sing, clarify, write, and act out words.  We teach spelling words and history words and science words and geography words.  We teach describing words and compound words.  We teach synonyms and antonyms and homonyms, too.”

“Teachers try everything short of back handsprings to get their students to quiet down and pay attention.  We flick off the lights, clap patterns, hold up fingers and wait, change the level of our voices, count up to three, count down from five, set timers, brush wind chimes, shake shakers, bribe kids with free play, and seat the boys next to the girls.”

“I was in Teacher Mode.  It turns on automatically whenever children are near and goes into overdrive when it senses busy streets, mud, gum, or bloody noses.”

“Of course nothing has changed like technology.  A bug was something you brought in from recess to show the teacher.  A desktop was something you scraped dried Elmer’s glue off with your teacher scissors.  Hard drives were on Monday mornings.  Viruses kept you home from school.  And cursors were sent to the principal’s office.”

Now it’s your turn, dear readers.  Feel free to share any school memories or teacher anecdotes of your own in the comments section below.