Every once in awhile, I like to think back on my experience as a high school student. Shuffling through my memories as a high school student helps me be a better high school teacher because I adopt those great practices that my teachers implemented in the classroom, and I avoid practices that I did not enjoy as a student. Fortunately, I have experienced a positive year with my students, and I attribute the successes we have experienced in my class to my constant remembrance of my own experiences as a high school student.
The teacher strike in Los Angeles, and Oakland teachers’ sick-out has prompted me to think about my experience as an 11th grader in AP US History where I had three different teachers for that course in a single year. The first month of school, I was taught by a substitute teacher who worried less about the material and more about the content on her phone. The first month in AP US History was useless. I remember sitting with my friends, in a corner of the classroom, texting and having conversations about everything except AP US History. This substitute left our classroom after a month because she didn’t enjoy doing a job she was not getting paid for—she was our college counselor, not a teacher.
The second month into the school year, we were joined by a great teacher. He was a former school principal who decided to return to teaching because he missed interacting with students. I truly appreciated him and everything that he brought to the classroom. He taught us AP US History through first semester, but left after second semester because his teaching philosophy did not align with our school’s. For our second semester of AP US History, we were taught by a third teacher who did her best to prepare us for the test, but by the time she arrived, most students in my class took the class as a joke because we had experienced so many different teachers in a single year. If teachers did not stick around for the entire year, why should we?
The strike and sick out in Los Angeles and Oakland has made me wonder how students are perceiving their experience in classes this year. The teachers in both cities are fighting for vital and transcending demands that impact both students and teachers; however, I cannot help but think about all those students who have sat in a gym or a cafeteria watching movies, waiting for the end of the school day. As a student who experienced a lack of consistency in the classroom, I cannot shake the feeling of guilt I now experience as an educator. I wish that school boards in both cities would react to and meet the demands of teachers without bending educators’ arms to the point of needing to walk out of the classroom just to be heard. Teachers have resorted to walking under the rain and throwing routines out of sorts just to get a message across.
We need education reform, and that is apparent now more than ever. It is unacceptable that students’ day-to-day education is jeopardized as a direct consequence of adults’ inability to communicate and compromise within the education system. Families are burdened with the real, financial hurdles that result from having teachers step out of the classroom for long periods of time. With the new tentative deal that teachers and the board at LAUSD have reached, we hope that teachers can return and provide students meaningful memories in the classroom. I hope that current students in LAUSD and OUSD can look back to this moment 10 years from today and say that these protests were worthwhile, because we have otherwise filled our children with memories of a missing teacher, and I know first-hand the pain of those memories.
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