Don’t believe the hype, resources matter, anyone who tells you differently is a liar. All those charters, they have resources, usually some mix of the following. Also, I am not compromising on this, I still deserve to be paid more, AND the kids ARE ENTITLED to these things. Contribute to your community or stop complaining about the problems in our country and just admit you don’t care.
1) Smaller Class Sizes
It is true that really skilled teachers CAN teach large class sizes and still do a fairly good job. But just because something is possible doesn’t mean it is in the best interest of the kids. From a teaching perspective, class size is the single most important factor in my job. I have an AP Gov class that is 23 students and one that is 35. The smaller class gets more individual attention, is more fun for the kids, and can be more engaging. I can manage the larger class but it fundamentally changes my ability to respond to each student. My largest sophomore class has the most ELLS, Speds and 504s, at 32. We have a really good time in that class and it is well managed, but if it were smaller those kids would get more attention, focus, and differentiation individually. It also makes it difficult for me to teach my students how to be writers. To train writing you need to practice, practice, practice, with lots of detailed feedback. I make it work, but I also take a train 2 hours every day and because of my condition, I have to wear a brace while I do it. I don’t assign anything for points I won’t give feedback on, which means that I don’t assign homework to my sophomores, which is better for them, but it still limits the feedback. I am one of the fastest readers and writers I know, IN ANY FIELD, so most people can’t do the amount I do, which is why kids aren’t writing in English and History as much as they should. Teachers have to eat and be physically healthy to teach. My class size SHOULD NEVER be more than 25.
2) Curriculum resources
Not textbooks, I have those, I don’t use them. You want me to differentiate to your children? Give them all that they need? Create highly engaging and efficient lessons? Then stop making me worry about how much paper I am using. Stop making me worry about where I am going to get supplies for projects. Stop making me worry about how I am going to find primary source material. I still make it work, but I also have two degrees from Stanford, a highly scientific background in History, and a resourcefulness brought on by being poor. In the free market, my skills would cost you a lot more than I get paid. For me having these things, by the way, is far more important than the technology. Make sure we have what we need to do our jobs.
3) Build comfortable school sites
Kids are stuck in tiny rooms for 6 hours a day (not counting homework and extracurriculars), and you expect them to not get squirrely when the heater or air isn’t working? Or when they are hungry or tired? Our schools should be built to be the most comfortable environment possible. Schedules should reflect what we know about child development.
4) Provide and pay for support staff
Can I be counselor/mom/big sister/teacher/mentor/nurse etc. all at once? Yes. Is it a good idea? No. I need a good SPED team, truancy officers, counselors, nurses, and people who can take care of the bureaucratic paperwork and basic clerical stuff that ends up sucking up my time and energy. That is time and energy that go back into refining my lessons and working with kids.
5) The College Issue
Here’s the deal, we know that everyone can’t go to college because there aren’t even enough spots. We know that a lot of people don’t need or want to go to college, but we tell kids that if they don’t they will be failures, and then wonder why we have shortages in the valuable trades. We don’t provide any vocational training or alternatives. We tell kids they have to go to college and then don’t pay for it. We get confused as to why immigrant children stop trying when they realize that even if they do everything they should, because of a decision their parents’ made and our continued insistence on covering our ears and saying lalalalalala when it comes to immigration, they can’t go to college anyway. We give them very few resources to navigate the system and then wonder why they stop trying. Why would you try if the system is clearly designed to lock you out? That is not something rational people do. We make the stakes so high that kids can’t even be kids anymore, because heaven forbid they don’t do well for some reason, it is over for them. We have clearly designed a system for getting accepted that at every step of the way makes it hard for you to even apply if you don’t have privilege.
Taking somewhere between 2 weeks to a month of instructional time away from me so that we can test kids on tests which test very little, which are rarely displays of mastery of skills and knowledge, and which stress the kids out and put an inordinate amount of pressure on them is a waste of everyone’s time and money. Hold me accountable to my job. Stop by and visit. See what my kids do over time. Film me. Require as much education and training as you would like, but for the love of god don’t put my job on the backs of children as they take tests that are essentially meaningless.
Rich white kids do better in school because they have these things. We know what works, you just don’t want to pay for it. Stop pretending like that is not the issue.