Why I decided not to teach and how the leaders in public ed are changing my mind

 

I always thought I wanted to be a teacher, but the more I explored the profession and the systems that surround it the more I changed my mind.

When Wisconsin’s Act 10 was introduced and passed, I was a junior in high school and I paid close attention to the discussions arising from the controversial legislation. I became curious about our state government and its relationship with K-12 education and began to seek out opportunities to learn more.  

During my senior year of high school, I was extremely involved in my school district and community; where I come from the two are very much entwined (especially as continued decreasing in state funding requires our district to increasingly rely on the community’s financial support).

I spent countless hours working with my district’s school board as the student liaison and helped to pass a referendum to keep our schools running. I volunteered weekly in various classrooms and I spent time assisting my mother, a kindergarten teacher, in her classroom preparation.

In the spring of 2013, I attended the WI State Senate Scholar program and when we met with various people working in and around state government we asked them about Act 10 and specifically what it was like to work at the state capitol during the protests. Many mentioned that it was an experience they won’t soon forget because of how powerful it was to see so many people standing up for a cause.

It’s also an image still fresh in the minds of many educators. During my last two years of high school it became a talking point among students considering a career in education.

From these experiences I was able to see our education system from varying angles. Unfortunately these experiences made me want to turn away more from a profession as a teacher. The more I saw of the structure of Wisconsin’s K-12 system the more disappointed I was in our government. Thankfully, I also became more empowered to change the system and get a closer look at the people tasked with administering it.

This led me to spend two summers as an employee of the WI Department of Public Instruction. I loved working with so many dedicated staff (the majority of whom are former K-12 educators) and learning about everything that goes into supporting our schools and especially supporting our educators. Under the direction of Superintendent Tony Evers, employees at DPI are doing great work but like the rest of K-12 education the department is restrained by state laws and budget cuts.

The election for WI State Superintendent is only two weeks away and recently the candidates discussed Act 10 in a TV interview. You can watch the discussion here.

I couldn’t agree more with what Evers said:

“Act 10 passed. It’s in the past. And we move forward from there. But we move forward, and I think as a result we’re losing a generation of teachers. The divisive rhetoric around teachers and the teaching profession, that happened because of Act 10, so we need to change the rhetoric. That’s free.”

Evers’ opponent, Dr. Lowell Holtz agreed that Act 10 had some effect of low moral among educators but elaborated that more should have been done “to improve morale all along.”

There is a lot that can and should be done to increase moral in the workplace but when your government is actively fighting against your job security and essentially telling you that your job isn’t worth the investment in money or time, it tends to put a damper on those efforts. Act 10 was certainly a turning point but not the only time in recent history when state government has removed investments in education.

I won’t fault the teachers or district leaders for this. Most are stretched thin in efforts to keep their schools running among constantly changing regulations in less than ideal economic times.

Our teachers and administrators are professional educators; they deserve to be supported as such. They deserve a state Superintendent that recognizes what’s currently working while constantly looking for areas to improve.

I can attest that Superintendent Evers works hard every day to do this and so much more. A strong supporter of public education, Evers has an understanding of the issues facing our schools and has a strong vision for the future. This is why I’m proudly supporting him for re-election to the office of WI State Superintendent.

Check out his ideas and ways to donate time and money here and like him on Facebook here

If you live in Wisconsin don’t forget to get out and vote on April 4!

 

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