Bill Ferriter is tired.
Not only is he expected to teach science and social studies to his sixth grade students, but he, like most other American teachers, is also expected to fix a growing list of societal problems.
On top of the daily challenges of planning, instructing, assessing, remediating, and enriching to meet the individual needs of the 50-plus children that roll through my classroom each day, I wrestle with the constant mental pressure applied by a country caught in the grips of a “crisis mentality.”
Each new week seems to bring headlines highlighting a major flaw that needs to be addressed by teachers immediately. In the past month alone, I’ve read articles about how schools are overlooking boys (or girls), how we’re letting down our students and our nation in math and science instruction, neglecting to teach healthy living habits to an increasingly obese America, and failing to close the achievement gap between rich and poor students.
Reading scores are unacceptable, writing scores are unacceptable, and our country is falling behind the rest of the world on nearly every international measure of student success. Dropout rates are too high, numbers of students in advanced placement courses are too low, and there aren’t enough after-school activities for kids.
As Ferriter notes, the subtle, and not so subtle, message accompanying all this is that teachers are to blame for the problems. They are also tasked with fixing them.
Of course, all the crises come with no additional time, money, resources, and little help from the rest of society.
But who needs any of that? We just need to work harder and all will be right with the world.