Ensure Education Bill Is Not Harmful

We teachers stick together. Only a fellow educator understands the hours, the heart, and the dedication it takes to give everything of yourself to your students. Only a fellow educator can empathize with the late nights grading papers, the afterhours parent messages and phone calls, the long conversations in the grocery store with students and guardians, and the insomnia caused by worry and fret.

It shouldn’t be surprising that when I met a few friends for dinner last weekend, three out of four of us were teachers, and the other was a guidance counselor. As I said, those of us in the public school system are a close pack.

I listened to my friends share stories of classroom projects that incorporate virtual reality, student-created videos, and traditional crafts to help bring lessons to life. I listened as my friends mentioned, without complaint, the self-bought supplies and late night visits to the store, the time spent writing grants and putting together wish-lists of manipulatives, the before and after school meetings to plan for parental involvement activities, and the trials and tribulations of not only being teachers who cover state standards, who differentiate each lesson to reach the various learning styles and levels in his or her classroom, but who also serve as a surrogate parent figure. “Mom” is a current word uttered to teachers by young children in their classrooms who look at this eight-hour a day caregiver as nothing short of extended family. These teachers tie shoes, wipe noses, demonstrate how to properly give a handshake and greet someone, or further, listen to a child pour his or her heart out through tears regarding drug addiction, hunger, fighting parents, removal from the home, or worse. Last weekend, four of us teared up more than once, on this rare “girls night out,” as we shared prideful stories of our students’ growth, or as we shared heart-wrenching stories of declining home environments and upticks in numbers of home removals.

It should also not be surprising that all of this leads to the current bill proposed by Mitch Carmichael. I will not stand and say that this bill is 100 percent bad for teachers, students, or for the field of education. However, I, and all of the other educators out there, are very confused with some of the things introduced in this bill as he touts the “benefits” this bill will have. I ask what research, or even common sense, would back up the fact that raising the student to teacher ratio in our schools will benefit students. Twenty-five six- and seven-year-olds with one teacher is overwhelming already. Any teacher will tell you that 20 students or less is the most ideal situation for students. A lower student-to-teacher ratio gives us the benefit of doing more hands-on activities, group work, taking more field trips, getting to know our students, building relationships with them, making personalized contact to our students’ families, and obviously, more individualized instruction. Why would anybody support cramming approximately 30 little bodies and minds into one room with one adult and say that is what’s best for our students? How can legislators complain about test scores that are not the end-all-be-all of our jobs, and say that spreading our teachers thinner will benefit our children and yield positive results?

We need more individualization and more support for our students, not less. Please urge your representatives to keep this damaging section out of the bill as it continues to be discussed.

Jessica Broski-Birch is an educator in Ohio County schools.

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