Roy Exum: Teachers Are Suffocating

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam insists the Common Core efforts in education are “simply guidelines that say a fourth grader should be learning the same things” and other proponents claim the standards that were originally developed by the bipartisan National Governors Association will present a clear view of what students across America should learn from kindergarten through high school.

But Jim Tracy, a state legislator who has been a teacher, a coach and a school board member in Shelbyville, is on record: “I am absolutely against Common Core State Standards being implemented in our Tennessee schools,” he said over the weekend. “I know we can come up with our own set of standards, Tennessee Standards. I know we can do it better in Tennessee than Washington, D.C., and President Obama.”

As you realize that Common Core has morphed into a hot political potato, let’s look at something even worse in education. Suzi Sluyter has been a kindergarten teacher in Massachusetts for almost 20 years but when she resigned out of exasperation last month, she had no idea that her dying cry would be reprinted all across America. The reason is we are suffocating our teachers to death – or resignation – with endless meetings, assessments and time-consuming mandates.

Suzi, for example, was required to take a 45-hour training class last year that met for three hours every Thursday from February to June, this after school let out for the day. She had online classes and written assignments and three projects that had to be done to fulfill her certification but wasn’t paid a dime for all the time it took.

In addition she had to have three individual assessment sessions with each child in her classes and fill out reams of paperwork that her administrators could then use to “document” progress in her class – all without being paid. The money isn’t the object, it is the children. Read part of her resignation letter:

* * *

“In this disturbing era of testing and data collection in the public schools, I have seen my career transformed into a job that no longer fits my understanding of how children learn and what a teacher ought to do in the classroom to build a healthy, safe, developmentally appropriate environment for learning for each of our children.  I have experienced, over the past few years, the same mandates that all teachers in the district have experienced.  

“I have watched as my job requirements swung away from a focus on the children, their individual learning styles, emotional needs, and their individual families, interests and strengths, to a focus on testing, assessing, and scoring young children, thereby ramping up the academic demands and pressures on them.  Each year, I have been required to spend more time attending classes and workshops to learn about new academic demands that smack of 1st and 2nd grade, instead of Kindergarten and PreK.,” her resignation letter read. 

“I have needed to schedule and attend more and more meetings about increasingly extreme behaviors and emotional needs of children in my classroom; I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, ‘I can’t do this!  Look at me!  Know me!  Help me!  See me!’ 

“I have changed my practice over the years to allow the necessary time and focus for all the demands coming down from above.  Each year there are more.  Each year I have had less and less time to teach the children I love in the way I know best—and in the way child development experts recommend.  I reached the place last year where I began to feel I was part of a broken system that was causing damage to those very children I was there to serve.

“I was trying to survive in a community of colleagues who were struggling to do the same: to adapt and survive, to continue to hold onto what we could, and to affirm what we believe to be quality teaching for an early childhood classroom.  I began to feel a deep sense of loss of integrity. 

“I felt my spirit, my passion as a teacher, slip away.  I felt anger rise inside me.  I felt I needed to survive by looking elsewhere and leaving the community I love so dearly.  I did not feel I was leaving my job.  I felt then and feel now that my job left me.”

* * *

Are you ready for this? The pain and despair that caused Suzi Sluyter to resign in Massachusetts can be mirrored in any public school system in America. The Common Core has little to do with it. Our teachers are suffocating under a barrage of forms, written evaluations, assessments and all manner of other matter that is now required for federal and state dollars. It is quite ridiculous.

I believe in setting the bar high, in demanding our children read and comprehend and produce, but I also believe that if these professionals who we entrust with our children are unable to teach, the children of today will -- in fact – learn very little. We call them teachers – they must be allowed to do just that.

Finally, to expect any child to be adequately measured on a test that is administered just one day of the year smacks of idiocy. I know of no adult anywhere in America who wants a full year of his or her life graded on just one day of it. Why do we do exactly that with our children?

royexum@aol.com



Rhonda Thurman's Lack Of Respect - And Response (7)

     I truly believe that Rhonda doesn't try to offend people with her remarks; it just comes natural to her. I for one will be glad to see her ship sail. She has been a terrible representative of District 1 schools since she was first elected. It shutter to imagine her as a County Commissioner.      We get it, Rhonda, we really do. It ... (click for more)

Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more on issues than personal attacks. (click for more)

House Approves Expansion Of Chattanooga Veterans Affairs Clinic

The House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday to authorize funding for a new lease and expanded Veterans Affairs clinic in Chattanooga. This veterans’ package has been approved by the House and Senate Conference Committee.  Rep. Chuck Fleischmann said, “I am proud to announce the legislation passed this afternoon will fund a new lease for a multi-specialty ... (click for more)

KFC Manager Arrested After Staging Fake Robbery

Police were called Sunday night after a manager of the KFC on 3rd Street staged a fake robbery in order to take money. Fellen Hayes, 24, was arrested after police say she conspired with a man named "Ira" to make her theft look like a robbery. These events occurred shortly after noon.  She initially called police saying that a tall black male had approached her and taken ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Football Club National Championship Match Can Be Viewed Via EPB Fiber Optics

EPB Fiber Optics is offering the community exclusive live broadcast coverage of the Chattanooga Football Club in its final battle for the National Premier Soccer League National Championship. The game between the Chattanooga FC and the New York Red Bulls-Under 23 squad is scheduled for Saturday at 9:30 p.m. from the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. Fi TV Bronze, Silver ... (click for more)

McCallie's Bubba Simmons Steps Down as A.D.

C.R. “Bubba” Simmons  has announced plans to step down from his position as Athletic Director at McCallie School and accept the position of principal at Gordon Lee High School. Mr. Simmons took the helm of the school’s athletic department in 2008. Over the course of his career, which includes two previous stints, Mr. Simmons has served McCallie for almost 20 years. ... (click for more)