TAMPA, FL – A lot has changed since you were in school, right? Students may be attending schools built two decades ago, but what happens inside those walls looks vastly different than it did 20 years ago. But is it better, or is it worse?
Many of Florida’s teachers say they’re buried under time-consuming paperwork. Educators, they say, are provided scripts of what to teach and how to teach it, with the requirement to document it all.
“We spend more time proving we are teachers than actually being them. When I started eight years ago, we had time to collaborate and work together without proving we did it. Now we spend so much time in meetings filling out papers that we can’t actually collaborate,” wrote one educator online.
Another writes, “I’m too busy doing paperwork on how I plan on being a highly effective teacher instead of just being that highly effective teacher.”
Joanne McCall, President of the Florida Education Association, which represents more than 140,000 educator workers, says, “What we have now is that the Florida legislature is micromanaging and getting right in to our classrooms, and scripting what we should be teaching. the currant mandates by the state, “sucks the love of learning right out of it for kids, and takes away the love of teaching for teachers.”
Educators also say single-state assessment tests remove flexibility to make day-to-day instructional decisions.
“Everything derives from a high-pressure, high-stakes standardized test, which is unfair to kids and unfair to teachers,” says McCall.
Educators also point out that there’s less focus on vocational training in schools.
“We’re trying to pigeonhole everybody to be on the college track, and do we want everyone on the college track?,” asks McCall. “Do we not want an auto mechanic? Do we not want somebody to fix out air conditioner, or build our homes? I think not.”
The drive to place all students on a college track may result in more stress, and in some cases prompts some students turning to stimulant drugs to power through assignments and tests.
“They feel like they can’t keep up,” says Addie Carruthers, Wellness Coordinator at the University of Tampa, adding, “they feel like other people around them are doing better, and they’re striving for that ‘success’ we’re putting on them in society.”
But teachers note that technology has helped opened up a new world for students, and STEM classes are creating a generation of kids to advance that technology.
“We need to make sure they understand how math and science connect, and what we need to do to bridge those gaps,” says Jacqueline Byrd, Superintendent of Polk County schools.
Educators agree that the one constant over the years is the calling for people to become teachers.
Says Professor Joan Kaywell, of the USF College of Education, “You can take a kid and change them in to readers, writers, thinkers, people who have an understanding and a belief in themselves, that have self efficacy that they can achieve. Teachers can do that. “
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