Ladies and gentlemen of the United States, our education system is failing our children. It is broken with no real repair in sight. Everyone needs something more, and yet, no one is getting what they need. Students need more qualified teachers; teachers need parents to hold their children accountable; parents want the administration to fix all the problems by waving a magic wand. The administration needs more teachers to fill positions because teachers are leaving the field. From the front lines, I can assure you that the state of education right now is struggling. Big time.
To begin with, teachers are not being fairly compensated for what they are doing each day. If their sole job was to deliver instruction to students, that would be one thing. However, teachers are now being asked to wear several other “hats” in the midst of doing their assigned job. According to NEA, anywhere from 15-30% of teachers hold a second job just to make ends meet. In what other profession (that requires a college degree) does one need to have both a full-time career and a part-time job just to pay the bills? And let’s talk about the climate and environment in which teachers are being asked to work. Earlier this year, a teacher was shot and killed by her 6-year-old student. What? Twenty years ago, this would have been absolutely unheard of, but in today’s world, it feels like just another day in the neighborhood. Yes, the student had a disability, but there had been concerns surrounding this student previously and what was done? Nothing. It was noted and pushed aside just like many other things on any given day inside a school building. The most gut-wrenching part of that tragic event is the lack of media attention it received; it’s almost as if we are becoming numb to school shootings these days, considering how often they are occurring in our world.
Classroom teachers are starting to see the impact that COVID and remote learning had on American students. Students have no sense of responsibility, and they are not being held accountable for their actions. If they are given a consequence, it isn’t deterring them from doing the exact same thing a few weeks later, knowing the consequence is going to be the same. In my district, we have students buying and selling vape cartridges in the bathroom, and at the high school level, kids are vaping in the classroom. Yep. In. The. Classroom. We’ve had students steal large sums of money, create social media accounts for teachers using their photos from Google, and a number of other incidents that can just be classified as ludicrous. Most recently, a teacher in Florida was beaten and left unconscious by a 17-year-old student because she took his video game console away during class time.
Another serious concern in the education world right now is the lack of substitutes. This is wreaking havoc not only inside the classroom but within transportation as well. Currently, there is a large shortage of substitute teachers, causing buildings to have to shuffle personnel around to cover classrooms full of students. Sometimes, students are divided up among other classrooms for the day, working independently on whatever work was left for them. On those days, I would say maybe 25% of the students actually attempt the work while the others are either lost or off-task due to lack of supervision. Then we come to the “great bus driver debacle,” where there is a major shortage of bus drivers, forcing the buses to pick up extra students, making them overcrowded and a breeding ground for trouble and mischief. Some drivers are having to do double routes back to back, resulting in young elementary students spending over an hour on a bus on any given day.
However, to me, the hardest pill to swallow in this entire scenario is how much kids have “lost” over the past few years. Students have no sense of what is appropriate and not appropriate to say to adults. They just speak exactly what is on their mind without a filter, similar to the world they are growing up in. The system also has moved away from retaining students if they are not prepared to enter the next grade; I have more than a handful of students that are completely illiterate in middle school. These students cannot read, not even sight words. And yet, they sit in classrooms all day long, unable to read simple directions unless someone reads to them.
I could go on and on about the plight of education in this country right now. It’s heartbreaking, and I truly fear for what’s to come with future generations if we don’t make some changes. I don’t have answers, and I know it won’t be a quick fix, but if we want our society to succeed and flourish, it might be beneficial to invest our time, money, and efforts into the youth of our country. Sooner rather than later.