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Teaching in a Public School

I’ve been teaching for 15 years now, all in a district in Orange County, California.  It’s not the most afluent city in the county, but it’s not the poorest, either.  In fact, it does have a few things going for it, and it pays its teachers well.  I’ve spent most of my career in the lower grades, but I’ve been teaching Fourth Grade for the last 2 and a half years.  I like it.  They can actually do some things on their own.

But the district has a lot of what we call “English Language Learnings.”  That usually means their parents speak something else besides English, and their English language is limited.  So we have to do a lot of English language develevopment.  What we call ELD.  But we can’t call it that, because what about those kids who ONLY speak English.

What this means to the teachers in my district is that many of our students get very little help from home.  I have my students get their homework signed every night to make sure their parents have at least seeen the work, but still, it is not unusual for someone to bring their homework back done completely wrong.  I ask them, “Did your parents sign this before or after you did this work?”  They always tell me it was signed AFTER  they did the work.  So I don’t understand how a parent can send their child’s homework back with every answer wrong.

And communicating with parents is difficult as well.  For the most part I can’t send notes home because a majority of the parents only read Spanish.  And almost all of the parents speak at best in broken English.  Now, I do have a few English only families, but they are rare.  This year I have 2 white kids, a couple Philipinos and the rest are hispanic.  It is incredibly frustrating to not be able to communicate with a parents easily.  Almost everything has to be translated first.

Teaching is not always easy.  And not always fun.  But that’s okay.  It isn’t suppose to be.

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I frequently hear that California’s public schools are failing our students.  I beg to differ.  The students in California cannot learn what they need to from only their teachers.  Sorry, it’s not going to happen!  There is too much to learn, and not enough time to teach it so that everyone will learning it.  What must happen is that parents need to be the primary teachers for their children.  Parents need to know how their children are doing at school, and make sure they are up to speed on everything that they are learning there.  If not, it is THEIR job to make sure their children are grasping what is being taught.  That is their job!  So I hate to say it, but if students are failing in public schools (and they are, trust me!), then their PARENTS are failing the students.  Not the teachers.

I’m not saying the teachers are completely innocent and not at fault.  But I have seen to many struggling students, who dispite report cards, parent conferences, and papers sent home, still have no idea what their students need educationally.  They keep asking, “How is my child doing?”

I keep thinking, “Aren’t you paying attention?  Haven’t you been listening?  Haven’t you seen all that work I’ve sent home with your child?  Did you not see his/her last report card?”  Parents, listen up!  If your student is not at grade level in any aspect of their education, spend the time and get them there!  You are their first and last hope!  It’s up to you!  I can’t get all the students who are below grade level up to where they should be.  There are too many of them.  Your child’s teacher needs your help.  And so does your child!

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