Ask A Teacher How to Improve Our Schools

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Ask A Teacher How to Improve Our Schools

The following piece was written by Sara Wilson, a teacher retired from Bergen Elementary. Wilson's comments first appeared in the Rocky Mountain News February 22, 2000 and are reprinted here with permission.


School districts concerned about the potential teacher shortage on the horizon, as the News recently reported, might wonder why teachers are retiring and resigning in record numbers.

As a former teacher, I still socialize with friends I formerly worked with. I notice that on every social occasion, the conversation quickly turns to early retirement, and to the counting of months, weeks, even days "left to go." I decided to conduct some informal interviews to find out why they are so unhappy. Several recurrent themes emerged.

First was that disruptive, violent children monopolize teachers' time and energy to the point that they had little left to focus on the education of other children in their classrooms. Yet, they are continually criticized for neglecting these children.

Another was that they experience little support from administrators, who are themselves overwhelmed with other duties. Severely disturbed children receive no help from a social worker who is overloaded, and teachers can no longer call the Wellness Office for advice on stress relief because the Wellness Office has been closed due to budget concerns.

Last but not least were the poignant comments regarding accountability. As one teacher put it: "There is not one ounce of the human element in my classroom anymore. Everything is accountability." She went on to say that the time she used to spend with children, talking, reading and listening to music is no longer available. She thought that her very young charges needed these occasional breaks from their lessons.

Many teachers feel that education has become a routine, mechanical system in which individual initiative and growth for both teachers and students is thwarted. Is it any wonder that they are leaving the profession in droves? Isn't it time to examine our fundamental beliefs about education in this country? There is a wealth of information out there about alternatives, and I urge my unhappy colleagues, Gov. Bill Owens, legislators, and parents to seek it out, to study, and to contemplate the possibility of non-tax supported schools.

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