Several years ago, I sent an email to my aunt to defend public schools and my role as a public school teacher in the service of our children and our society. This is my story. This is that letter. Please share, and let’s fulfill the hope of public education and honor the wisdom of our teachers.
I know that you value me and have honored me before as an educator and teacher in a public school in California. I don’t want to have to respond to this email because I have a fieldtrip to finish planning for, grading to do, a counselor to send an email to, and some parents to call (not to mention lesson planning to finish). My school workday, which started at 7:00 a.m., just ended and most students have left, however, in many ways my day is only half-way over as I will be working on and off for the rest of the afternoon, evening and into the night.
I write to you because I cannot agree with the statement that “the educational system is broken.” I work within the confines of this system everyday, and I know its weaknesses and strengths, its disasters and its triumphs.
As you know me, you know I read a lot about education. I love it. It’s what I often do instead of lesson planning and grading late at night. Sometimes I forward articles to my friends and colleagues. Lately, I’ve been reading lots and lots of articles both for and against the Common Core State Standards, now adopted by almost all the states.
I have no idea what the answer is on Honors classes and heterogeneous classrooms. I debated this one in my Education program 10 years ago (no one got to choose the side they argued for, and I got to argue for tracking), but I feel like I have a new epiphany every day I teach about which way it should go.
I teach at a highly tracked school with the richest members of the community and the poorest immigrant kids from Tonga and Latin America in my district. My school is nothing but tracked. There are virtually no Latino, black or Tongan kids names on the GATE lists (unless someone like me nominates one which means that not a single teacher in their 7-10 years of schooling noticed that that this kid was bright); and the honors and AP classes are packed with Asian and white kids at a 40% Latino school.