I recently came accross this letter in a newsletter from David Banks, a current School Board member for Cobb County. The letter is unsigned in the newsletter, however there is enough detail that it would not take a whole lot of digging to figure out who wrote the letter.
Some of you may be wondering why I would post an anonymous letter from some bitter teacher. Well it’s not just one teacher that I have heard many of these same complaints and shortcomings from. I have many friends that are current and former Cobb County educators. I also am the child of a Cobb County educator. I have heard many, if not all, of this particular teacher’s critiques from the various teachers I know. I also know educators that have left the Cobb system or even the profession for many of these same reasons.
As many of you know, spanning more than a decade I have been everything from a room parent to a teacher at Murdock Elementary School. The Murdock Elementary School Foundation was formed at my kitchen table 9 years ago and has since raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit Murdock Elementary. I formed the Instructional Writing Committee and serve on the Leadership Committee. I created the Birthday Book Club, one of my most treasured contributions to the Murdock community. I have worked tirelessly for Murdock staff and students because I live in this community, because my children were educated here, and because I am a teaching professional. So, it is with a heavy heart that I share with you that I have resigned my position and will not be returning to Murdock next year.
I am sad and disappointed by the circumstances that resulted in my decision to leave the school that I hoped would be my teaching (and second) home for the remainder of my career. Things have changed at Murdock and in Cobb County. Let me explain.
For the past few years, more and more responsibilities have been put on the shoulders of teachers while, at the same time, more and more support has been taken away. At first, we summoned our strength and resolve, ready to handle the increased burdens, hoping they were temporary and understanding the tough economic times. But one can stand strong for only so long as educational conditions worsen without support. To continue to say, “I can only do the best that I can do,” is not fair to the children I am supposed to be educating. It makes me feel complicit in failing my students. Though always receiving top performance evaluations, I am only doing so in an educational environment that, itself, is below expectations. This is not good enough.
The job of teaching WELL in Cobb County right now is impossible. Class size explosions mean that no single child can get what he/she needs and is entitled to. Decreases in support staff mean that students with additional needs are not served in the manner that is best for their learning. Increased demands for ‘accountability’ have resulted primarily in additional paperwork and administrative tasks. We lurch from curriculum to curriculum at exactly the time when all support has been deeply cut. All of this takes even more time away from the business of teaching. I can honestly but sadly say that, of my professional time this year (I regularly work 10 – 12 hour days during the week and about the same combined over each weekend), more was spent pushing paperwork than concentrating on the instructional planning for and needs of my students. Testing expectations invade classrooms, stealing larger and larger amounts of valuable instructional time and doing little to benefit students. Teachers are largely on their own to figure out curriculum and find materials to support instruction as the County provides insufficient training and, most recently, the School Board even refuses to purchase materials for teachers and students! Teachers are not being supported as well as they could be…as well as they must be. This, in turn, means students are not being served as well as they could be… as well as they must be.
When I started teaching at Murdock, I had 18 students in my second grade class. In 2007, the Georgia Department of Education set the class size maximum at 21 for grades k-3. Since then, dire financial circumstances caused the state to “allow for flexibility for school districts to adjust class size to meet the financial and staff constraints school districts are experiencing.” (GA DOE, 1/16/13) This released local districts to increase class sizes as needed.
This past year, Cobb County used this flexibility to set its maximum class size for second grade at 25. As you know, I currently have 27 students.
Teachers cannot effectively meet the educational and individual needs of that many seven and eight-year olds, particularly with increased administrative duties, an avalanche of time-consuming paperwork, decreased support and myriad encroachments on instructional time, including unsuitable testing.
I have tried to sound the alarm. I have expressed my concerns to administration, department chairs, superintendents, and the School Board. The truth is, sad to say, that my one voice is not loud enough. And so, I encourage you to speak up and be heard. Now more than ever, your child needs you to advocate for his/her educational well-being. I have to believe that, if enough demand action, someone will start listening.
The Cobb County School District is in a grave state right now, and things are only getting worse. Please, please, please – for your children –be aware and do some research to educate yourself and take a stand on the issues facing education in Cobb County right now. Talk to teachers. Class size, Common Core battles, testing practices and their price tag, budget items – these issues and more are impacting your child each and every day. Know what is at stake as analyzed through your own research and knowledge. After understanding the facts, take action! It takes minutes to make a phone call or send an email. Contact administration, the superintendent, the School Board, legislators, the state – let everyone and anyone know where you stand on issues and demand they act on behalf of children.
In spite of the challenges this year presented, I have loved every single minute I have spent with your children. They are amazing – smart, caring, funny, curious, sweet, kind, and passionate about learning. They deserve more.