Teacher: We care about your kids as we teach them

I try to not take to heart many of the published opinions in the newspapers and social media regarding teachers. But a few things I read [earlier in July] prompted me to write. I don’t feel politics have a place inside my classroom, but enough is enough. These are strictly my personal feelings and opinions.

First, I feel there is a lot of misinformation regarding the Common Core Curriculum (CC). We are a much more transient society today. It would be helpful for a student to be able to move and not be behind or ahead in a new school.

My concern with the CC is that I feel some of the standards are too difficult for the assigned grade level, not a “dumbing down” of the curriculum. I think we are trying to teach too much, too soon.

Secondly, where were these people when this was all decided several years ago? There was much discussion about it. The standards are already in place at this point.

Third, don’t throw the classroom teacher under the bus for all of the ills of the education system. We work with every student that sits in a seat in our classrooms. Our goal is to see that each student meets or exceeds goals regardless of the level at which they entered the grade.

I have been a classroom teacher since 1978. My career path has taken me through three states, both public and private schools, rural, inner-city, and suburban settings. I have had ongoing education during this time, as well as earned another degree in 2007, so I feel I am current with education topics.

In years past, teacher manuals may have been basically “the student books with the answers,” as was stated in a recent letter to the editor. That is no longer the case, just as slide rules are no longer used in math classes.

NO teacher worthy of being in the classroom teaches solely by a teacher’s manual. It is a jumping off point for instruction and a valuable resource to meet the needs of all types of learners.

Locally, we are to teach following the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (CCGPS). It is insulting to me, for someone to make the assumption that a teacher would only “follow a script in the manual” to teach students.

You are correct that there are some counties who do follow this method of instruction; however, Fayette County is not one of them.

Another person made the comment that teachers do not know what is taught in the grade level before them or after them. This is not a valid statement.

A teacher must know where his/her students ended the prior year and where they are headed the following year to use effective teaching practices. We meet with the grade levels above and below us specifically to discuss this topic. We have access to the standards for all grade levels, as anyone does by going to www.georgiastandards.org.

It is the teacher’s responsibility to know these standards and insure that they are taught as directed by the CCGPS — not by what is in any teacher manual for any subject.

To teach effectively, the students and teachers benefit from the use of a textbook. As to the remark that teaching will be done by computer, you haven’t seen my one teacher desktop and my one N-Computing system (one computer with four screens) in my classroom! That would not be possible with our technology.

In all this discussion, there is one constant, the classroom teacher. He or she works nights, weekends, early mornings, and summers preparing lessons, researching, studying, taking classes, and preparing materials so that his/her students will receive the best education that we can give them. Our day doesn’t begin or end with the student’s day.

We also provide a warm environment in which to learn that each teacher generally spends personal funds to create. We are the calm eye of the storm in a swirl of politics and finances.

Our salaries and benefits keep getting cut — but we keep showing up and rising to the occasion because that is what good teachers do. The school day starts earlier? We’ll be there.

Cut the county budget by using non-work (no pay) days? We still continue to work. Increase class size? Add desks and make a few more papers. No money allotted for supplies? We take the increasingly small paycheck and go buy computer ink and paper and other supplies for ourselves and for the kids who don’t have any.

Stickers, treats, rewards — yes, that is at the teacher’s expense as well. We provide so that all students have the same opportunities in the classroom and no child does without.

So while everyone talks about how poor the education system is, there are those of us who love what we do in our profession (And yes, it IS a profession) and continue to follow the guidelines we are given, and required to follow, to see that students succeed.

Are there bad apples? Absolutely. But the good certainly outweighs the bad, and those teachers that are dutiful and quiet and get the job done successfully, they just don’t always make the news.

Nothing confirms the evidence of good more than that note you get from a child or a parent thanking you for what you do, or for some way you have helped them on their educational path. Or even more meaningful, having a former student come back to visit many years since he/she walked out your door for the last time.

A computer can’t replace that teacher greeting you at the door in the morning and knowing you well enough to see if you are ready to learn or maybe you had a rough day before you even got to school.

Nothing can replace the comfort a teacher provides when you miss your mommy or you have hurt yourself on the playground. Teachers provide little life lessons all day long without even knowing it through their actions and many with intent as well.

Is it all positive? No, sadly some life lessons are learned from making mistakes and learning from them, all part of growing and maturing to become an independent thinker and a good citizen of our world.

If you trust me enough to take care of your child 180 days a year, for 7 hours a day, trust me enough to know that I want your child to learn as much as you do!

We are invested in your children and care about them and worry about some after they move on and celebrate their successes as well.

Take that negative energy and time used to write letters or develop campaigns and make it positive. If you have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or neighbor children, encourage them to value that teacher who stands in front of the classroom well prepared every day.

Teachers have feelings too. He/she just didn’t wake up and walk into a classroom to read a teacher manual!

We read the comments and just keep our heads down and do what we know how to do and have chosen to do. Don’t let the politics get in the way of the job that teachers do every day. We ARE that constant.

Debbie Dunham, teacher
Braelinn Elementary School
Peachtree City, Ga.

Davids mom
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Joined: 10/30/2005
Thank you Ms. Dunham

Your letter represents the quality and commitment of the outstanding teachers that are serving the children of Fayette County.
Than you for sharing your experience with our community.

borntorun
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Joined: 11/28/2005
Good Letter Ms Dunham

First thank you for your many years of service educating our youth. Fayette County has one of the best school systems in the state and it's due to dedicated professionals like you. You make good points about Common Core. We do live in a transient society these days and standardizing the curriculum to a certain degree would be beneficial to a student moving from one state to another. The current hysteria against Common Core is ridiculous and political and not based on any kind of fact. What is a fact is our state elected officials have for years set up arbitrary means of evaluating graduation rates to make themselves look good. And our current Governor Crooked Deal is no different. Is that what he means when he says "we know what's best for GA students"? Or is he saying he can't hide behind some skewed method of pumping up the numbers? For the past 10-12 years the state has cut funding for education and demonized teachers such as you as being the reason for student failure. Hogwash. How about blaming the parent(s)? Are parent(s) making sure the student is doing his/her homework and studying for tests? Are parent(s) involved with the PTA at their students school? Are there bad teachers? Sure! And school administrators should deal with them. But to cast a wide net over all teachers is just plain wrong. Thank you again for what you do.

G35 Dude
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Joined: 02/15/2006
Thank you Ms Dunham

I had 2 kids go through the Fayette County school system. And I have to say that the majority of teachers that I came into contact with went above and beyond in my opinion. I just hope that all the changes that we've gone through lately doesn't change that. Thanks Ms. Dunham for all that you do.

Larry.Sussberg
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Joined: 01/20/2013
Ms. Dunham & Common Core

Thank you for identifying that Common Core is more rigorous and not a "dumbing down" of our students, especially in Elementary and Middle Schools.

The standards to have our children "think" and "comprehend" in reading based subjects are much higher and students who normally achieve high scores may not be seeing those scores especially if teachers can no longer provide "aids" to quizzes and tests.

Luckily there is room for modification on a local level which is important since "higher level math" could use modification.

What may be an issue is Georgia's recent move to pull out of 1 or 2 consortiums to develop testing, the reason given was funding. We should be concerned that the "dumbing down" may be done at the State testing level but only time will tell.

Thanks for your letter to the editor and thank you for caring about the kids you teach!

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