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YARBROUGH: Georgia school teachers share their feelings about future of public education

My recent open letter to Georgia’s public school teachers produced as much response as I have received in a long time. Teachers from one end of the state to the other have weighed in and the comments are still coming.

To put it mildly, many classroom teachers are frustrated and downright angry with all the political and bureaucratic meddling, including an obsession with testing more than teaching, a lack of respect for an honorable profession and a fear that if something isn’t done soon to fix the problem, finding a new generation of teachers will be all but impossible.

One educator wrote to say, “I recently retired from 18 years of teaching future teachers. I have been so distraught about the state of our education system in Georgia for many years, but especially the last few, that I have now found it very difficult to encourage students to get into the profession that I have loved and supported for my entire life. That is one of the reasons that I retired. I could no longer tell students to follow their passion into this world that for most of them will be exhausting, frustrating and ridiculously challenging.”

Another noted, “I am one of those teachers who put everything into my job. I resigned this year, five years short of retirement because I just can’t take it anymore. It has become overwhelming. There is less and less time for planning and grading and doing those little things that goes into great teaching. If I can’t teach my best then I won’t do it.”

Another said, “I’m sadly just counting down the days until summer each year and retirement in a few years -- if I can even make it that far. My job used to be a true joy, back in the day when I was actually able to teach using tried and true methods and not just to a test -- when I was respected as a professional and left alone so I could teach.”

“I sat at my computer and tried not to cry over your words,” a teacher wrote me. “It is hard to explain but your words hit home. This educational system is broken. And as you stated so well, so is our society, and therefore it is hard to maintain the hope of things getting better. Hope that things can get back on track and education -- not testing -- will be placed front and center again.”

Another wrote, “I pray every day that I will make a positive impact -- even when I don’t see the result of my efforts. Lately, however, my thoughts and prayers have been riddled with despair. I am not simply end-of-the-school-year weary; I am overwhelmingly despondent about a job I have always loved.”

A former public school teacher who taught high school English for 39 years said, “I am extremely concerned about the fate of public education in Georgia. I have never seen such a ridiculous focus on standardized tests and testing. It is absolutely absurd when the entire month of May is taken up by standardized tests in one form or another. Enough is enough! Teaching to the test -- and what else do teachers possibly have time for -- may produce adequate test scores. It is not teaching thinking, despite what some are trying to say.”

A recent college graduate who is already off to an impressive start in her career, wrote, “My heart breaks a little every time I visit my high school teachers and see how many changes are negatively impacting them. These are the people who have truly inspired and molded me into who I am today, and I want them to have the opportunity to continue to do so for countless other students for years to come. I was so moved by your article, I sent an email to one of my high school teachers thanking him and included the link to your article.”

For those of you who think our public school teachers are a bunch of whiners, I have a suggestion. Spend a couple of weeks in their shoes and then tell me how you could do it better, given all the obstacles that are thrown in their path.

While you are doing that, I will continue to keep an eye on the deep-pocketed, out-of-state ideologues and their wide-eyed political sycophants who trash public education in their own self-interest. For them, it’s not about the kids. It’s about power and control. And money. Always the money.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb.

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