High School English Teacher…What happened to parent and student accountability?

I am currently a high school English teacher. I have been teaching full time for two years now. It doesn’t seem like a very long time, but I could write chapters on all that I have seen, experienced, lived.

One of the biggest movements in America right now is for teacher and school accountability. In Florida, Governor Bush continues to implement new plans for school vouchers and standardized testing. There is a grading system for each school. Understandibly, the public wants to make sure classroom teachers are doing their jobs.

Through all of this, no one mentions anything about the responsibility students and parents have. Lack of this is the one dishearteneing aspect that pushes me closer and closer to the door. I love teaching, when I am teaching. I adore my students. However, the pressure and stress is literally sucking the life out of me. Sometimes I wonder if it is just me, perhaps I am not cut out for this profession. Nevertheless, I am not a quitter, so I continue to beat my head against the wall in order to find an answer.

So what are the stressing issues I face? Well, getting the students to come to school is the first one. I cannot teach if they aren’t there. My students have shown such apathy when it comes to attendance. At least half of my kids last term had over seven unexcused absences in one term. If they do come, they often wander in to class late with total disregard for the rules. Then, I am expected to send them to the discipline office, whereby they miss another day of class.

Attendance is not the only issue. Last week my department head called me in to see her. After expostulating on what an excellent teacher I am, she kindly alluded to the fact that I had a high failure rate. Of course, the fact that many of my students were absent so many days that their grades suffered didn’t seem to work into the equation. She simply gave me advice on how to make it easier for them to pass- thereby lowering any standards I might have, and the students’ own responsibility in the issue.

Besides failing to many students, I also supposedly show preference to athletes. Two days later I received a visit from the principal. It was in regards to a grade change I had made for one student from an F to a D. She is an athlete, which was not something I had known or cared about when I made the change. I did it simply because after a long conversation with her mother, I felt that perhaps I had not given her enough credit for her efforts. I began to believe that I had made a mistake. My true constrenation was the fact that someone would complain about a D. After all, when did a D become an acceptable grade for a student to have?

I fight a daily battle with all of the issues I face. I feel helpless and ineffective when coming up against the quagmire of public education. The students’ apathy is in direct correlation to their parents’ involvement. Nobody is questioning why these kids aren’t coming to school or completing basic tasks.

The one thing I have gained from my experience is that it is always easier to blame someone else for the pitfalls of society. So much of today is about placing the responsibility somewhere else. It scares me to see what the future will be like in ten years. What is even more frightening is that if I feel alone and isolated every day, it must be a hundred times worse for these confused and misdirected adolescents I deal with every day. We have not abonded the educational system, we have abondoned them.