Biggest Threat to Public Schools

Office Depot would seem an odd place for friends to meet, but not for Cindy. Coupons, both mine and hers were firmly in her grip. She was easily navigating the paper supply aisle despite her cart already stacked full of paints, pens, pencils, erasers, folders, multiple sized binders, rolls of colored paper, and spiral notebooks. 

This was an annual event. Knowing students, both her former ones, and the new ones she’d soon meet, Cindy was gathering the tools of the trade—the stuff kids would need to face another year of school.

Cindy saved all her spare change, so when the August back-to-school sales hit, she’d be ready. No student of hers would be without a binder, pen, and paper. 

This ritual is just part of Cindy. It’s as premeditated as her daily planner—where she organizes lectures and assignments. I’ve seen that planner mid-year. In different colors are student names with ideas to help them through their school challenges.

Cindy’s car is the first one to arrive at school and the last one to leave. Students can depend on her kindness—for academic trials and as a listening ear for the personal problems often beyond her ability to solve.

After we stowed her purchases in her car, I offered a coffee break, which Cindy welcomed—but we still needed to go to Costco for what she calls student mental snack food. We sipped coffee at a small table. Even though we’ve aged since our college days, we joke that we just keep getting smarter—and that’s what really matters. But today Cindy wasn’t joking; she seemed pensive.  

Cindy always adjusted to all the federal and state education standards, new guidelines, and the latest and greatest student assessment tests.

But the last decade has taken a toll. Cindy sounded defeated as she spoke about what she called MIA parents (missing in action) and POW students (prisoner of the Web).

In earlier years, she could grab student’s attention reading aloud from classic novels they didn’t know existed. Now, she has students who simply don’t care, parents who don’t have time, and a government fixed only on scores.

Showing students how to love learning got lost somewhere. Cindy solemnly announced this was her final year. She was simply too weary to fight the battle anymore.

Cindy’s not alone. Experienced, passionate teachers are leaving their profession in record numbers and newer teachers are quitting in search of more lucrative and less cumbersome careers. 

Besides our nation’s children, teachers who love teaching are the best natural resource we have. 

The biggest threat to our nation’s schools?
—not enough inspiring teachers. 

Cindy impacted thousands of lives and as I thought about a trunk full of school supplies, a daily planner full of ideas, and nearly a quarter century of classroom experience, it will be hard to ever replace her.

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