By Julie Samrick
Seeing Michelle Rhee (former Chancellor of the DC public school system) speak last night about her grassroots Students First campaign to reform U.S. public education was inspiring. She spoke in more depth about some of the themes first presented in the 2010 documentary Waiting for Superman, namely, what are we going to do about our failing public school system? I hand’t felt that same motivation, that passion to “save the world,” since stepping out of the teaching credential program more than 15 years ago.
As a 23 year old public school high school teacher in the mid- 1990s, I didn’t have to contend with what new teachers go through today- like all of the pink slips that come with budget cuts. It was the booming 90’s and they couldn’t hire us fast enough- in fact, many of my colleagues even had emergency credentials.
I still acutely felt the frustration many effective teachers feel who want to make a difference, though- for one thing, it was demoralizing to witness many ineffective teachers around me. There was no getting rid of the chronic snoozer who was a legend at the school for his anything goes philosophy. There was the teacher who was chronically tardy too, just to give you the gist of the situation I contended with for 6 years before I left to raise a family.
When I left I knew it was the most challenging job I’d ever had, one that made me pull my hair out at times, had its share of divine moments to be sure, but an overall experience that had gotten the best of me and I suffered a case of new teacher burn-out. I do credit my short time as a teacher to this day, though, as one of the single biggest influences on my later parenting.
It was empowering to hear last night that socioeconomic status isn’t the deciding factor in a child’s future. A positive classroom experience with a good teacher makes all the difference in the world though.
I’m thinking I may just have another go at the classroom once my youngest starts school….I feel moved to do it; I feel I am needed to do it.