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Education

The Things You Don't Learn in College About Teaching

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Teachers are facing increasing pressure about merit pay, the constantly-evolving FCAT, and students facing tough times at home.

Some Florida teachers voiced their hopes and frustrations as part of a town hall meeting which is set to air Thursday May 24 on WUSF TV.  It's part of our "American Graduate" project, which promotes success in high school and beyond.

I went to the town hall meeting as both a reporter and as a college student who's trying to decide whether to become a teacher.

I was hoping the trip would give me insight into what it’s really like to stand up in front of a class and teach. I’m only a sophomore in college -- I still have time to change my mind. I wanted to make sure this is what I want to do.

So I boarded a charter bus with 30 Tampa-area teachers headed to Jacksonville.

It wasn’t long before I was hearing about their frustrations — such as spending the last two hours each evening grading papers. And it sure wasn’t hard to keep the teachers talking.

Once we made it to WJCT studios in Jacksonville, about two hundred teachers from across the state filled up the studio.

The teachers had a theme — they didn’t have enough.… Enough options, enough resources, enough parent involvement. And don’t get teachers started on standardized testing. That’s something they’ve had enough of.

After the taping, middle school teacher Desiree Jackson said it’s about time teachers are heard.

“What we say and what we feel counts because the things that are going on in society and in legislation as if we’re not competent, all kinds of negative things are coming towards us as if we’re not valuable to society,” she said.

Jackson says “school choice” shouldn’t just be for parents — teachers need to have choices, too.

“Keeping the same objectives but some voice in the choices; in the textbooks, in the types of testing, in the way the material is used, in the pacing… some of those things we need back.”

For someone with a classroom in her future, I still had questions. Cynthia McBride from Tallahassee was ready with answers.

“Love the children, get to know your child,” she told me. “Get to know the students because if they don’t have a respect for you then they hear nothing that you have to say. You’ve got to embrace them.

“See, school doesn’t teach you that.”

On the trip back home, I stared out the window and thought do I still wanna do this?

I learned there’s no magical solution to the problems in education. Lots of these problems will still exist when I have my own classroom.

But despite the struggles, these teachers spoke with passion in their voices… I  know I carry that same passion and I’ve realized that’s exactly what I need to overcome these challenges.

You can hear the rest of the teachers tonight on Florida Matters, Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on WUSF 89.7 or wusf.org/floridamatters.

http://vimeo.com/41314405