An Insight Into Public Education ~ YE GAY O’LE VALLEY

By: Dani Langevin – 11/22

I will speak about being an educator in Massachusetts but will share anecdotal stories from teachers in other states, too.

It’s extremely important to know that educators in Massachusetts are required to have a master’s degree. We are also required to maintain our license. Every 5 years, we need to make sure that we have a certain amount of credits in pedagogy (the science of teaching), teaching English Language Learners, children with learning and socio-emotional disabilities and the subject in which we teach. These are courses and seminars we have to take at our own expense.

On average, we will spend several thousand dollars every 5 years only to receive a 1% raise or less that may equal an extra few hundred dollars. Most of us take more than what is required in those 5 years. We read books about the things we need to be educated on. We research and participate in focus groups, book groups, cultural awareness groups, socio-emotional seminars and more. Educators are constantly being educated. Curriculum is dictated to us. It is created by the Massachusetts Department of Education, not the teachers. We can’t pick and choose what we do and do not want to teach. We teach it all based on the curriculum standards and maps that are provided.
We have masters. We have teaching practice under our belts before entering the profession and we are constantly re-educating ourselves.

Yet, we are treated with such disdain and disrespect even after being told that we are professionals. We can start with the pay. It sucks. We are literally molding the future of America; holding the lives of every child in our hands but, the public refuses to compensate us for what we do. One of my colleagues in another state said this, “This year, with my 3% raise, our insurance went up, dues went up, taxes went up and I’m bringing home $2 less a week.” This is during a time when cost of living has increased at least 8%.

Education is incredibly counterintuitive. Technology has been introduced. We have computer programs where parents, guardians and students have access to their grades at all times. We have classroom programs where they can also access the lessons students should have completed or are currently working on. Every part of a student’s academic progress is at the fingertips of every adult with a computer. It is supposed to ease and open up communication between students, parents, teachers and administration and it does.

We no longer have to write progress reports, report cards, or give written updates. It’s all right there. Despite all of this, some administration require phone calls home. Isn’t this like asking us to go beat our laundry against a rock in 2022?

We have all of this technology to open up communication and transparency and yet, we are expected to call a number of homes to inform them of something they already have access to. When are these calls supposed to be made? Our planning time is minimal at best, and we’re asked to do this at a time when grades are due, students are panicking, and late work is flying at us like bats from a cave. We don’t have time during our scheduled planning time and none of us are going to do it on our own time. And most of the homes that we call, the number is always busy, mailbox is full, or the number has been disconnected.

A teacher from another state shared that she was docked points on her evaluation because she didn’t make those phone calls. It was May of last year. She had called parents in September, October, November, and every month up until May. It was the middle of May when the evaluation was done. The month wasn’t over, which she tried explaining to her evaluator who wanted nothing to do with the explanation. So, a twenty plus year veteran teacher was punished because she didn’t complete a task before the end of the workday whistle blew, and it was only lunch time.

I’ve heard of educators being written up for not wearing a tie. Many schools do not have dress codes for educators. Another educator told me about her disability. She had trouble walking. The system wanted to get rid of her even though she was excellent at her job. She was given assignments that would require her to walk from one side of her building to the other, constantly. The union advocated that she have a permanent room and the students come to her. Not unheard of. They wouldn’t do it. She left.

Another educator had a noise maker. It had buttons on it that had different noises: baby laughing, small explosion, cheering and so on. She had it for almost 15 years. Used it every year for emphasis. Her kids loved it. One time, a student complained. Instead of asking her to take it home, put it away or not use it, administration took it from her. Like she was a child who couldn’t take a simple direction and not the professional with a masters that she was. Imagine the message that sends to an employee.

And then there’s the parents. Gone are the days when parents were highly aware of the fact that, when their child complained about school, they most likely left out or added key details to support their objective of looking innocent while trying to destroy their teacher. For some reason, many parents and guardians believe that their child is telling them the gospel truth. Gone, too, are the days where that benefit of the doubt would keep a parent on level ground. They would first reach out to the teacher to get their side of the story to try to get the truth and proceed appropriately.

Nope. Can’t do that anymore. An email is written to you, the principal, department head and superintendent with a threat of job closure and license removal. It goes from 0 to 60 in a flash. None of the people above a teacher wants to hear from a parent unless they have first spoken to the teacher. But these customers run right to the CEO of the company instead of the manager of the store. Brilliant!

Oh, the students. I do love my kids, but they don’t make things easy either. In fact, many of them do what they can to make it more difficult for all of us. Stories from the classroom include: teenaged boys who purposely hyperventilated and passed out during class, the kindergartener who pulled his pants down every day and exposed himself, the student expected to take a standardized test after their home was invaded, the 16-year-old who threw herself on the floor because a cookie was put on her chair, a third grader who brought a sex toy to school, teens passing out in the halls or bathrooms from vaping, middle schoolers who threaten to kill themselves, or the boy who told a female teacher he was going to kill her. Let’s not forget the over 300 students and teachers that have been killed in mass shootings on school grounds all at the hands of other people’s children.

Just because you once sat in a classroom twelve years ago doesn’t mean you have any idea of what happens within a school or classroom. Talk to more than one educator. I’ve been to an emergency room scores of times, but I would never assume I knew how one is run or should be run. ◊