I am in a state of disappointment and shock now that I have left the walls of education and have entered the world of running your own small business. I am only able to share a little bit of what I am grasping to understand. There will likely be other blogs similar to this.
A little background on me, I was in public school for 13 years in the same school district in rural Ohio, followed by 4 years at The Ohio State University, followed by 11 years of teaching in public schools. For the first time I am out of the walls of academia. I am now helping my husband manage a feed yard in central Nebraska.
While I was teaching I was critical, graded harshly (until administration made you defend your grades), and pushed and dragged "some" student to their highest potential. One successful student said this about me "The woman who has presented me with some of my greatest challenges, while showing no mercy, and the first person who ever truly intimidated me." I now know I did not do enough to insist that every student attain certain standards to become a tax paying citizens. I am not sure all of that was in my control. I try not to beat myself up about that too much. However, now that I am trying to find employees to hire, I realize I didn't do enough.
I remember having a conversation with a group of students. I don't remember who now (you can identify yourself if you want) about being tardy and attendance. The school of course had a policy about excused absences and unexcused absences. How many days they had to make up work and the rules went on and on. Like most teenagers, their goal was then to bend the rules to their advantage. So, bluntly I told a group of students (seniors I think), I don't really care why you are late or tardy. It doesn't really matter if your grandma died or you were throwing up or kissing your girl friend in the hall, you missed whatever we are doing. They looked at me like I was an alien and one of them said, "well that is just mean". I said "I don't mean to be insensitive, but when you miss something you miss it." They recanted with, "but the rules say we have ? days to make it up".
The problem with being an Agriculture Education Teacher and FFA Advisor is you usually have at least 5 different classes to prep for, labs, and at anytime you coach at least four different judging events, plan a banquet and fill out individual record books and awards for a number of students. Therefore the kid that just decided not to show up for class for two weeks and wants to make up individual labs, building projects, safety tests, record books and class work is a bit of annoyance. But the rules say . . . And that's what really beats a teacher down.
I never minded helping students make up work, however if we just spent two weeks welding and now we are in the greenhouse, how is this student supposed to weld while we are in the greenhouse. Especially since said student missed the safety test. I will say I really did not do enough to influence the public school system in the area of attendance.
Now, I am on the hiring/management side of things and realize I really didn't do enough. If you look at our time cards there is not one of them that clocks in on time everyday. I helped cause a problem for our entire world. We had an employee that clocked in 20 minutes late continuously, when asked about it, he acted as if it was no big deal. I was so disappointed I felt like I was back in high school. He wasn't ashamed at all.
When students are late for school it matters, because it becomes a habit for life. It is killing our labor force. What can we tie tardiness and absence to that kids will buy into to fix this problem.
Do not reply with it's the parents problems. Because public school systems taught them this way too. This isn't a new problem we are at least two generations into this problem.
To my fellow teachers, still in the trenches, you guys are awesome. Keep working hard, you make a difference and someday we will turn the American work force around. I know you are drowning in reports and school standards. What will count for you and our country in the end, is if these students get out of bed and get to work on time. Don't underestimate your power.
To all my students that post early morning posts about leaving for work and tweet about working 60 hours while your buddies are at the bar. I am proud of all of you and appreciate you helping make a difference for America. Be proud of being a hard working citizen!