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NCLB Outrages

Teacher prepares for endless summer vacation

We wish Lorie well. The outrage is the NCLB obstacles she faces.

By Lorie Schaefer

It is autumn, or will be by the end of the week. The air and light have changed. I feel it first in the early morning when I need to pull the covers up over my shoulders, my head against the chill. Even though the bright, warm sun of the midmorning and afternoon causes the mercury to climb, I know what is coming.

For teachers fall is a time of new beginnings. Each September presents a clean slate, the hope and promise of new faces, new discoveries. This year however, has a hint of the bittersweet for me and I have felt the chill a little more profoundly and poignantly. This will be my last autumn among schoolchildren. This is the year I retire.

It is my twentieth year teaching at Seeliger, my thirtieth working for the Carson City School District and frankly, I'm tired. Although I've had a satisfying and rewarding career, the balance between satisfaction and dissatisfaction is tipping. There are many things I simply will not miss.

I will certainly not miss the inherent irony of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) designations. When a school is designated "in need of improvement," it is given extra funding resources. Its teachers even receive an extra fifth of a year credit toward their retirement for teaching at an at-risk school. However, when the school improves, it loses the extra money. The programs that allowed a school to improve are taken away. Talk about a Catch 22. It reminds me of a Simpson's episode in which Mrs. Krabapple is giving instructions to her students. "The worse you do on this standardized test, the more money the school gets, so don't knock yourselves out."

I will not miss other obstacles placed there by people who think they know better. For example, I've been told I can't order books for $5.99 each with free shipping from amazon.com because the school district will not do business with an Internet company. Instead, I must order from the book publisher and pay $8.99 each plus 15 percent shipping. That means students and taxpayers (you and I) get one-third fewer books.

I will not miss a purchasing procedure that has become so convoluted and time-consuming, so Byzantine, that I'm still waiting for shelving - valued at about $20 - I requested last May. It probably does save the district money though, because many teachers simply buy their own supplies.

Of course, I will not miss test scores equated with learning in the name of accountability or the dirty business of textbook and test publishers dictating curriculum.

I will not miss having my professional judgment overruled and undermined, no matter how "highly qualified" I am.

I won't miss hauling work home nor will I miss spending weekends and vacations in my classroom. I will not miss the disdain of people who simply don't get what it is teachers do but want us to do more.

Probably many jobs are like that, in both the public and private sectors. Bureaucracies and red tape are not restricted to education. Many of us have to submit to policies made by decision makers who have never - or perhaps only long ago - done the jobs they oversee. I'm lucky. I get to retire. But the problems will persist.

Still there is much I love and will miss about teaching. I have been honored and privileged to spend my days among some of the most interesting and important people on the planet, your children and grandchildren.

I will miss being around people who - literally - look up to me.

I will miss getting children excited about learning and seeing the lights come on in their eyes when they figure out the code.

I will miss the eagerness, spontaneity and affection that are part of kindergarten. And the endless variety. No two days, no two years are ever the same.

I will miss little voices singing "Home Means Nevada" or "America the Beautiful" after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

I will miss marking the passage of time by teaching the younger brothers and sisters - and even the offspring - of former students.

I will miss my friends and colleagues - true and passionate professionals - who amuse, support and inspire me every day.

As Pat Conroy writes, "There is no word in the language I revere more than teacher. None. My heart sings when a kid refers to me as his teacher, and it always has. I've honored myself and the entire family of man by becoming one."

However, I feel the change of seasons. It is the autumn of my career and I look forward to an endless summer beginning next June.

Lorie Schaefer teaches kindergarten at Seeliger Elementary School. She and her nearly retired husband have two grown daughters.

— Lorie Schaefer
Nevada Appeal


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