It’s no secret that the education of our youth has plummeted to new lows. For years students have been graduating from high school, unable to read their own diplomas. Colleges have long since been providing remedial classes to get College Freshmen students up to speed, so that they can take real college courses. It’s really sad that in our society, in the midst of booming technological advantages in our classrooms, many kids can scarcely read and will have an extremely tough time getting through life with virtually no education.

There is a wide assortment of things that this problem can be blamed on. There are homes with parents missing, and the remaining parent has to work two jobs, often to make less than a decent income. Sometimes the remaining parent is looking for another spouse, or is too worried about their own social life to be bothered with the education of the child they have been blessed with. Whatever the case, the children most often suffer emotionally, physically and scholastically. 

There are homes where both parents are there, but one or both of them are too focused on whatever things in their lives have become important to them besides their kids. Maybe it’s racing; maybe it’s time at the lake; maybe it’s motorcycles; maybe it’s just being a social butterfly. Whatever the parent’s focus is, it isn’t the future and well-being of their kids in too many cases.

Many times a parent’s lack of involvement is to blame for the poor education that kids are getting these days, but let’s be real for a minute. It isn’t always parents who are to blame. The whole of our public education system has really gone down the tubes, and has been on its way there for many years. We (John Q. Taxpayer) have been sinking boatloads of money into public education for decades, only to graduate more and more students that cannot read, and can’t do simple math.

I’m sure that some may be guessing, by the name of my piece, that I am saying there are no good teachers left. I hasten to say that I’m not sure if as many of the teachers on the job today are as dedicated as they once were, but I think more of the blame should be placed on the educational system itself in general. Perhaps much blame could also be placed on Federal guidelines, school districts, or the individual schools in those districts. I’m sure that there is plenty of blame to spread around equally.

In the last few decades it seems that we see more and more public schools turn into virtual indoctrination institutions than systems of learning. The things that really make our kids into more knowledgable young people, capable of learning more on their own appears to be a thing of the past. More time seems to be focused on social issues and political leanings than learning how to read and write. History has been re-written by those who would seek to disavow our country’s founding. Math has been turned into a complex circus of numerical confusion. More time is spent on making sure kids don’t have an identity crisis (something that SHOULD happen at home). Sex education and sexual identity seems to be the focus in many districts.

The teachers that would endeavor to teach our children how to learn so that they can broaden their own horizons are bridled by mumbo jumbo from districts and State mandates, which could in part be controlled at the Federal level. Those teachers are out there, and some of them are still teaching, but some of them are struggling, wondering what to do, because they really aren’t allowed to “teach”. They care about their chosen field, and they care about their students, but are kept in check and perhaps even beaten back (metaphorically speaking) by illogic in the system.

I am married to such a teacher. Stacy got into teaching a little later in life by volunteering in literacy programs. She could have done anything in the world she wanted to do. She would have made an excellent Attorney or Judge. I’m sure that she could have breezed through med school if she chose to. The thing is that Stacy loves showing others how to better themselves. She teaches people how to learn and she’s damn good at it…if and when she is allowed.

She currently teaches English at a small school in our state to Special Education (SPED) students. Teachers who are involved in SPED are saddled with an extraordinary amount of paperwork and meetings within the school, district and even at the State level, regarding their students, which isn’t required for regular education teachers. Not only does Stacy have that in addition to her regular duties, but also the extra burden of finding out just how to help each individual student. There isn’t much wholesale teaching in SPED, because each student has more intricate “problems” than may be found in a mainstream classroom setting. Some students may have a problem with Dyslexia, might be on the Autism Spectrum, while others may come from less than ideal family situations, where abuse may be involved.

I appreciate the teachers that I have had through the years, but I have to say that watching my Stacy work, is like watching a magician do her work. It isn’t really magic, but seeing her evaluate each student in a few days time, and directing their individual studies to suit their specific needs in the future is a magical thing. It comes with quite a lot of stress on her part and sometimes behavioral problems with students, but she does such an excellent job in resolving their needs and issues. Where many other teachers have failed at getting these kids to learn, Stacy accomplishes it more often than not.

Sadly, most of her students, for whatever reason, didn’t learn how to read or write well. How can they accomplish learning in any class if they can’t read? Although English is mainly what she teaches, she spends an extraordinary amount of time teaching them vocabulary, and reading. Many of her students go to regular classes too, and she asks the teachers of those classes to send her material that they are studying, so that she can help them with their problematic classes. Stacy does that for the kids, not the teachers. She incorporates many outside resources that can help them learn new words. She does some things with them that even make learning fun. Many times they leave her classroom not even realizing that they’ve learned something.

Stacy is tough but fair with her students. They always know what she expects of them. Genuine effort is the expectation, and they understand that she knows the difference. Not only does she teach English, Reading and Writing, but she teaches mutual respect…something that should be taught in the home, yet something some of these high school kids know very little about. She promises them respect, but more importantly, she teaches them the importance of respecting others. In other words, she teaches character traits that will benefit students long after they are out of school and making their way through this long and difficult journey that we call “life”.

She also ends up reading their tests in subjects that she doesn’t teach, because she is…well, a Special Ed teacher. Most times she ends up doing this during her own lunch time, and sometimes even during a class where she is supposed to be teaching English or Reading. Just how ironic is it that she has to stop teaching her students Reading and Writing, so she can give a test orally to students who don’t read well enough to take the test on their own? How’s that for administration? 

Stacy is given no allowance by her school to purchase any materials for projects, or other supplies. The books and materials that she was left with were old and outdated. Some of them were incomplete sets (ie. seven textbooks and two workbooks, or two textbooks and seven workbooks). There are three or four desktop computers in her classroom (not sure how many of them work), so she bought three additional laptops for the students with her own money. She has also purchased a couple hundred dollars worth of books (some on sale, some not). Almost everywhere we go, Stacy has her eye out for some type of materials to use with her students.

At times, she spends parts of our weekends at school, preparing lesson plans, or getting lessons together that she has come up with, that are far more practical and maybe even fun for her students. She also has to do special preparatory paperwork in advance of yearly or bi-annual parent-teacher State/Federal SPED meetings, which must meet legal guidelines.

These are just a few of the things that she does. I’ve left out quite a bit, mostly for time’s sake. I won’t include the battles that she faces almost daily from different teachers and/or administration. Stacy is a true hero to me for what she does, and how she does it. I truly wish that I’d had teachers like her when I was in school. I didn’t have horrible teachers, but they were more like old-time school marms. They knew their stuff, but they had no drive.

I’ve spent a lot of time bragging about my wife Stacy and her teaching skills. In as much as I’ve done that, I realize that she isn’t the only one of her caliber. I’m sure there are many teachers across America who really do want to teach….to make a difference in the lives of the kids who are in their charge. They too may be bridled by the “powers-that-be”. They too have reached the point where they wonder daily “what’s the use?” They too are encumbered by things in their school districts that have absolutely nothing to do with enabling kids the ability to go father in life by what they’ve learned in the classes of great teachers.

Where are all the good teachers? Many are looking for jobs that are really meaningful to someone. Many are still in the system, but have given up, at least in part, and are chasing their paychecks from week to week. Many have retired, weary of the useless psychobabble that they have been forced to shovel out instead of real life learning skills that schools cared about once upon a time. 

May God be with our kids who will run the future generations one day without the aid of the good teachers.

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