Many people have a variety of different opinions on how to and where to educate children. With those thousands, even millions and billions, of opinions, the ultimate focus needs to be on the children. Having served over ten years as a special education teacher, I was blessed with the opportunity to teach in a variety of settings: public, private, and charter. Each setting had it’s positive moments; however, each setting had several weaknesses, as well. In this particular piece, I’m going to be focusing more on teaching in the public and charter school settings.
In working in the public setting, I met several quality teachers who cared about their students and were great teachers. One consistent concern was the amount of students who went through the classes with a variety of disabilities and how to best meet their educational needs. For a portion of the year and a half that I was in the building, I taught a self-contained classroom where we covered different topics, including budgeting and how to correctly write checks (of course they weren’t real). I, also, had the opportunity to co-teach classes with different teachers. One teacher, in particular, allowed me the opportunity to teach a lesson every so often, but oftentimes, I took down a copy of the notes in case students ever needed a teacher copy and would assist students in correctly identifying answers by referring back to the book and looking for contextual clues. Teachers who didn’t necessarily receive in-class support from a special education teacher were, at times, uncertain of how to better help those students with disabilities, especially the veteran teachers. While my experience at this particular school was overall fairly positive, I quickly realized, due to the size of the school, that students (those with and without disabilities) and even staff members had the potential to fall through the cracks if certain parameters weren’t set in place to help them feel successful and catch or support them if they fell. Many times, if they weren’t caught, students would fall. I could go into much more detail on a variety of different positive and negative moments, but I’ll reserve those for another time.
I spent about six and a half years out of almost ten and a half years of teaching within the charter school systems. I taught at a variety of different charter schools, each having their own unique quirks, expectations, etc. However, between each of the charter schools, positive and negatives consistencies began to show themselves. At each school, the majority of each staff worked hard to assist in student education and making them grow academically as individuals. Several families that send their children to charter schools genuinely care about their children’s education and actively participate in their daily lives, as well as activities that happen at school. Unfortunately, within each of the charter schools, many negatives began to show up. Communication between the administration and the staff was lacking regularly at each of the schools, and the expectations for teachers and staff were inconsistent, despite the amount of effort that each member of the team would put forth. Each building was often short-staffed, particularly in the area of special education, causing other team members to pull more than their share of the weight. Resources and supplies for special education were lacking to a degree in that much of the activities that were done with students was paid for out of teachers’ own pockets. Particularly with special education, often times, there was a lack of understanding of special education law and how to better assist students with disabilities. And, overall, the lack of support, compassion, and understanding from the administration for the staff was astounding. Often times, charter schools within the state of Ohio are looking to earn a buck, particularly in the areas where public schools are struggling to meet the state metrics. That’s not always the case, but it happens regularly. Because the focus is bringing in money and enrolling as many students as possible, often the teachers and students are the ones that suffer the most and work the hardest.
While this specific post focuses a lot on my own personal experiences within the teaching field, others have had a variety of different experiences in both settings. I will say, in closing, that whichever school setting parents decide to place their children in there will be positive and negative experiences regardless of the setting. No school is ever going to be perfect. However, if teachers are expected to “teach to a test” and get students to pass that test, regardless of the public or charter school setting, something drastically needs to change state-wide and country-wide. Our children in this nation are falling further and further behind because they aren’t being taught skills they need to know in order to make it in the real world. And, expectations for staff, teachers, students, parents, and administration need to be consistent between each school and district (despite the category) and between each state within the country. And, all of them need to be held accountable consistently for their own parts. Education is one of the most important aspects in each person’s life and should be treasured.