Perry township teacher Michelle Smith sat on a bench on the side of the House Chamber for over seven hours in order to give her thoughts on the teacher shortage. To watch Michelle deliver her powerful testimony, go to about 7:09:37 in the archived video here (select the October 19 meeting from the drop-down menu).
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
I greatly appreciate having the opportunity to speak to you concerning the issue of whether or not there is a “teacher shortage” here in Indiana. I am an educator as well as a citizen of the US and served my country as a US Army soldier in military intelligence as a Korean linguist. After serving, I could have gotten any number of jobs in government or corporate America, but purposefully chose to be an educator for life because I believe that education is the true practice of freedom in a living democracy.
I thought that perhaps you would like to hear from an actual educator about who our students are. Of my 104 students, 64% are English language learners, 36% are special education, 12% have medical disabilities, and all 104 are in intensive math and English intervention programs because of their inability to perform on the ISTEP. These kids are more than just a number and I feel it is my civic responsibility to advocate for them.
You dictate that my teaching effectiveness be judged based on one test with students who come to school with more than just a desire to learn, yet you expect them to sit down and focus on an exam that has absolutely no bearing in their real scheme of life.
I have had students who have been shot, strangled, tortured, beaten, starved, and burned. I have had students who have seen their parents, their siblings, and their entire families massacred, hacked to pieces with machetes. I have had students who fled their country with only the clothes they were wearing when they were attacked by rebel forces. I have had students who were raped, physically dismembered or altered simply because they were born female. I have had students who lived in garbage dumps, begged for food and have eaten dirt.
All of this before even entering the United States.
I have had students living in automobiles, homeless shelters, in tents and on the streets under doorways.
Students living in foster care, with grandparents, cousins, and older siblings because their parents never came home. Students whose only source of food is the meager breakfast and lunch served by the school. Students who have walked to school, in 15-degree weather wearing nothing but jeans and a t-shirt because they do not have a coat or winter shoes.
This sort of thing is a daily occurrence where I work and have worked. It is always something, and usually something you don’t see coming or can plan for.
Professional development now is only about how to obtain a better score on the teacher evaluation so that I can keep my job. I am rated on a scale of Regularly, Sometimes and Rarely, all this based on the 4 45-minute observations made by an administrator.
Those of you who think you know what is best for the penurious have yet to realize that you are dealing with the lives of people without ever asking them what it is they need or want.
Unlike in private schools, public educators accept, appreciate and educate each and every student who walks in the door. Public educators will not and cannot turn students away because they have a pre-existing condition, behavioral or social disabilities, lack of money, lack of family connections, lack of political power, lack of academic skills and background or cultural knowledge, lack of internal desire to learn, lack of external desire to learn, do not speak the language, or are physically or mentally challenged.
One can always find fault with public entities. And you, as a legislative body should be the last to cast stones.
If you want to know why teachers are leaving or are going to leave the profession, it is because you, the political representatives, have enacted legislation that is undemocratic and you know it.
It is because of these punitive policies that people like me will be leaving the profession. I am not threatening you; I am just telling you the facts of the matter. We will not take it anymore. THIS IS NOT DEMOCRACY!
Rather than tear down public education, why do you not try to support and uplift one of the greatest unifiers in democratic history? Regardless of private and religious affiliations, you were elected to protect the integrity of the constitution and promote the welfare of all your constituents.
Thank you for your time.