A Thoughtful Teacher Speaks Out

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A school teacher offers a real world lesson

Lindsay Rodriguez

Lindsay Rodriguez is a second-year high school and middle school social studies teacher in San Antonio. She works at the School of Science and Technology, a charter school serving 435 students in grades 6-12 located inside Loop 410 between Alamo Heights and Oakwell Farms. The Texas Education Agency rates the school Exemplary. The tuition-free college preparatory school selects students by lottery. Interested parents can click on the link to apply.

Rodriguez incorporates community engagement in her class lessons, and has made a special point of interesting her students, who excel in math and science, in Geekdom, the downtown technology incubator and mentoring laboratory.

“If I have any legacy as a teacher, I hope that it’s leaving my kids feeling empowered to work through problems they see in the world around them, even if they felt powerless to change them before,” Rodriguez told The Rivard Report. “I’m a big proponent of community organizations and the role they can fill where sometimes traditional schools can’t, or won’t. I have recently been talking to GenTX and SA2020 and am trying to give my kids a road to new opportunities and a voice to speak up about what they see and need.”

Two recent postings I wrote focusing on improving education in San Antonio and broadening the community conversation about education reform led Rodriguez to speak out on behalf of teachers and share the perspective from the classroom view. We found her commentary prescient and asked if we could post it as an article to start the new week.

The Rivard Report welcomes other voices in the education arena to share their views.

A school teacher offers a real world lesson

Lindsay Rodriguez

 

By Lindsay Rodriguez

As a teacher I feel really conflicted about figures like Geoffrey Canada. I know the majority of teachers are working hard, without a lot of support for what they’re doing. I think that teaching unions support students and teachers, and that charter schools can undermine that.

I think that the vocal opponents of school unions tend to talk about lazy teachers who don’t care about their students, and have a lot of vacation time, and aren’t that committed, etc. Teachers know a different reality: Those breaks are unpaid, and are often spent working, planning, attending educational workshops and conferences. However, I also agree that unions can be bloated and not allow for innovation and improvement. It’s a tough subject.

Charter schools can be phenomenal, and something needs to be done to help ALL kids succeed and have a place in our society. Achievement and opportunity should not be based on property values, socioeconomic brackets, and zip codes. That’s criminal, but it’s too often the way the system shakes out.

Charter schools have done a great job of bridging those gaps for inner city children, often through holistic, whole-child programs. But not all charter schools are that good, and a lot get a pass for being basically the same standardized test focused, non-innovative programs as regular public schools simply because they call themselves charter schools. The whole point is to be able to experiment and then take best practices away, which doesn’t happen most times. The charter schools that are excelling are inspirational, but it’s sad that all our kids don’t have the same chances to have supportive environments to thrive and succeed.

I get really uncomfortable when I see the blame being thrown on teachers for things we can only minimally control, especially when every teacher I know is really dedicated to what they do. No one gets into teaching for the money. They do it because of a calling to help. That doesn’t mean they’re all great, but the public impression that most of them are lazy and uncaring and there’s just a few trying to change things is patently false.

It’s tough on schools with billions of dollars in budget cuts. There’s lot of teachers who are moved to get in and change things, but San Antonio school districts aren’t hiring, and in fact most are laying off positions. It’s awfully hard to be Superman and teach to small groups and differentiate instruction when you’re trying to teach to a group of sometimes 45 already-behind high schoolers without much support. But thousands of teachers in San Antonio get up every day and do just that, and have a real passion and drive that prevents them from even considering doing anything else.

San Antonio needs a major turnaround, and it’s not an overnight process. We really have two cities when it comes to education here – the haves and the have-nots, and if you try to say that teachers should be able to overcome that without any additional support or resources, and not take into account that there is a lot going on with our cities and families that happens outside of the classroom, it’s going to be impossible to deal with the problem realistically.

Community programs are going to be key in addressing kids’ issues, and partnering with these organizations to give kids, teachers, families, and communities multiple means of support is the only way it’s ever going to happen.

http://www.lindsayrodriguez.com/

 

3 thoughts on “A Thoughtful Teacher Speaks Out

  1. Pingback: » Blog Archive » The Rivard Report

  2. Hold on, there are a LOT of assumptions made blatant as fact.

    1. Breaks unpaid???: Teachers have a salary equivalent starting between 27 and 35K, up or down some. They make this no matter the 3 months off for summer, the 2 weeks Christmas vacation, etc… Definitely not unpaid, and definitely not what others have as a benefit. Thats a huge luxury right there.

    2. I firmly dont believe, and I doubt any statistic proves that teachers are off “working, attending, planning”. The Majority seem to have summer “fun” projects they choose or spend time with kids. big falsehood here.

    3. I would say many get into teaching because of the calling, but that overlooks the very large amounts that see it as a constant, easy profession to make a living, which implies less a calling and more a “its ok”.

    4. This was a “teachers are heros” piece. With waves of statements and a one-way view pro teachers and their plight of toughness. i get your point, but i dont buy into the extreme of it.

    5. These articles and other ignore a major aspect of education: Parents. We can throw tons of dollars or programs at kids, but little results will be obtained without parent enforcement and student participation. I would make the argument the cultural framework is the number one factor. In fact, study after study from Texas organizations both left and right produce ZERO correlation between more dollars and educational advancement/improvement. Also, to my point, how do we account for kids in tough environments of large class sizes and skimpy budgets that “made it” to college? They had more money? No. They had smaller class-size? No. etc……. Cultural/Values/WorkEthic. etc

    I do not blame teachers, nor am I a fool enough to think more dollars solves problems. Simply look at the logic when more dollars were around, barely any statistical improvement. Sure, there is a point where limited funds WILL impact the students and community, and maybe we are getting there….

    But, if it were my kid, I would tell them to be responsible in their actions, take pride in their work, and put their nose to the ground and work as hard as possible. AND, provide a lot of love in the home, which is really where it begins and ends for a lot of these students before they take one step into a classroom.

    I encourage a sort of performance system, etc. Even the current PResident, a Democrat, has proposed this too. However, All these systems and up and downs do not change the core facts for a student. That no matter what, you can choose to do your homework or not each night. And for that, no teacher can make you do anything.

    Over the last 60 years, the rest, all the programs, dollars, and other have proven no greater benefit than improvement of plus or minus ~5 percent to the median.

    But if we like, we can make this about teachers, charter, money, and more…

    But we will only miss the disease while we focus solely on the symptoms.

    • Schools should launch a Guest Teacher Program, inviting individuals (like yourself) to spend a week teaching in the classroom. You could put all your theories into practice and see how you do in the face of social realities that include half the kids (or more) not living with both parents in a stable household. Once you get them calmed down and focused (and fed if they qualify for subsidized meals), you could get busy teaching them to pass the new STARR test. I’m guessing that after one week you would cry for mercy. You might also become an undying champion of the teachers who actually have a genuine passion and talent for this important and thankless work. –RR

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