Jun 9, 2011

Michigan Mom Reflects On Great Teaching, Calls for End to LIFO

As the mother of two generations of children, ages 39-16, Nancy has been actively involved in Michigan's public schools for 35 years. She has seen firsthand the changes that have taken place in America's school over the course of nearly four decades, and as a result, she is passionate about the mission of StudentsFirst and the issues that are vital to educational reform for the 21st Century. Nancy and her family currently reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
I am a 64-year-old mother of four, ages 16 to 39. Actually, my husband and I are parents of not one, but two generations of children. After our older two left home for college in the early 1990s, we started over and adopted two more children. I am also the grandmother of five, the oldest of whom will be entering high school in September. As you might assume, we feel we have a great deal invested in Michigan's public schools -- past, present, and future. During the past 35 years, my husband and I have partnered with literally hundreds of teachers in the course of our children's educations. Many of those experiences have been extremely positive, and extremely rewarding. Many, however, have not.
Over the course of decades of involvement in the public school system, we have always sought to honor those teachers who have honored their profession and their students. By the same token, we have been diligent in attempting to affect change where we believe change is needed. I believe that one cause of those unsatisfactory experiences has been the last in, first out policies that require seniority to be the determining factor when teacher layoffs occur.
We do not advocate the elimination of teachers based on either age or length of service, for we have experienced good teachers at both ends of the spectrum -- young and old, experienced and not-so-experienced.
Consider Miss Angot, who taught English Composition at Birmingham Seaholm High School during the 1980s and 90s. Miss Angot was nearing retirement by the time we met her. She was financially secure and did not need to teach. Except for one thing: she loved her students, and wanted them to become not just good, but great writers. She did not care if her students loved her in return; she only cared that they learned -- and loved -- to write.
Then there is Mr. Erby, a brilliant young man who taught 7th grade Algebra to my younger son. When I first met Mr. Erby, I rolled my eyes and thought to myself, "What could he possibly have to teach my son? He’s just a kid himself!" But then I listened to what Mr. Erby had to say when he addressed the parents for the first time that year. He told us, "I am not here to teach your children Algebra!" For a very brief moment, this seemed to confirm my initial impression. But then he continued: "I am here to teach your children how to gather information, evaluate that information, and make decisions based on their evaluations."
Today, I would fight for both Mr. Erby’s and Ms. Angot's survival in the public school system. Both have demonstrated complete devotion to their students; both contributed greatly to my children's educations, and to all of the public school students who have been fortunate enough to study under their tutelage. But sadly, there are teachers in the system who are not so committed to their students. I believe helping students grow intellectually is a far more important benchmark than years of service when it comes to staffing our schools. Let's make sensible decisions that put the needs of children first as we consider changes to our nation’s school system.
The views presented on our guest blogs are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of StudentsFirst. We thank all of our guest bloggers for their thoughtful perspectives.

No comments:

Post a Comment