As education debates linger, a thank you to public school teachers

Taylor Huff

In my most recent columns, I’ve discussed issues surrounding the current world of education. Specifically in regards to debates regarding charter schools on both a federal level and here in Kentucky. 

Most of these pieces are rightly interpreted as critical given the poor, often childish, state of politics in which we find ourselves. But now, during a time where teachers are often thought of the least, I would like to thank all of those that have impacted my life through what is often the thankless job of teaching.

An average school day in my home district of Jefferson County lasts six hours and forty minutes. This does not dictate when a teacher’s work day begins and ends. Most teachers are either expected to go the extra mile to tutor before or after school, create innovative lesson plans to address the constantly evolving needs of students, grade hundreds of assignments per week and lead extracurricular activities.

Teachers heavily involved in their schools end up working upwards of fifty hours per week to the point where teaching is a lifestyle as opposed to just a job. Most teachers will say they don’t do it for the paycheck, compensation often less than they deserve, but do it to engage and inspire the next generation to reach their full potential.

Then why do we have an inexperienced Secretary of Education intent on privatizing education at the expense of public schools? Why are we electing officials who create legislation like HB 520 that will funnel precious funds from Kentucky public schools to independently owned institutions?

It is absolutely appalling that, while elected officials are arguing about whether public schools should be allocated less money, teachers are resorting to paying out of pocket for basic classroom supplies. Teachers can rest easy, however, knowing that much of their job security relies on a student’s ability to memorize answers for standardized tests.

This obsession with basing a student’s worth off of standardized testing has created a culture where students learn in order to pass a test rather than just for the sake of knowledge. How are teachers expected to inspire stressed out students who believe that test scores and grade point averages determine their value to society?

I write all of this in order to get across two simple words: thank you. Thank you to my public school teachers that went above and beyond to teach me a subject they cared for so passionately. Thank you for encouraging me to believe in myself when everything else in the world was telling me I was not good enough. Thank you for continuing to do your job while also dealing with pressures from the administration, challenging students, and struggles in your own personal lives.

As I continue to reflect on my experience with public education, I regret the opportunities I missed to make my teachers feel more appreciated. Their sacrifice and ability to inspire, not my performance on a series of tests, is what still encourages me to pursue my passions.