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The old portable was now in a trash and scrap metal heap waiting to be hauled away. PHOTO BY KEN WHEATCROFT-PARDUE

Standing by the temporary fencing, I squinted at the wreckage of where I’d once spent most of my waking hours. My old portable at Carter-Riverside High School, where I’d taught for 17 years, was now in a trash and scrap metal heap waiting to be hauled away. In my head, I tried to figure out how many days I’d taught there: 180-some odd days times 17 equals … well, a helluva lotta days.

For the past few years, I’ve watched in amazement as practically a new high school was erected behind the old one. Inside those new buildings, students and teachers will be making memories. And while I wax nostalgic for my old digs, those portable eyesores that are no more, I don’t begrudge the teachers getting to work in brand-new classrooms. Today’s teachers more than deserve that because the past few years have been pure hell.

First of all, because teaching is hard, period. Not everyone can do it. I’ve seen many first-year teachers bail after a few weeks or even days. But also, it’s been made even harder by the constant pressure to raise state-mandated test scores. Back in 2013, the last year I taught, for the first time I saw teachers breaking down crying during English department meetings because of the relentless pressure to up student test scores.

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These tests may have a place, but currently their outsized role is greatly diminishing the pleasure of teaching and the joy of learning. Not to mention putting a target on the back of public schools, so as to make it easier to defund them and help charter and private schools thrive.

Then COVID came along. Teachers had to learn on the job how to do instruction online with all sorts of daunting challenges — students who didn’t have a parent at home to monitor them or good WiFi connections.

Then it was, well, COVID again. When schools went back into session, some parents objected to masks.

In those early days, there was an honest debate to be had about requiring masks in schools, but that’s not what happened. All over the country, we had parents getting fed disinformation about masks and “freedom” by the usual suspects in the right-wing outrage machine. It made for some ugly confrontations where administrators and teachers were threatened.

Mask disinformation was just the beginning. Next, the outrage machine stirred up the totally fictitious Critical Race Theory (CRT) scare of 2021. Why white students are so privileged to not be exposed to the unvarnished truth of our country is never really explained. If you argue there is no systemic racism in America, you arguing the point makes it so. Why did this reaction against nonexistent CRT in public schools come after the Black Lives Matter protests? The same reason we saw Jim Crow laws after Reconstruction or the rise of Republican conservatives after the Civil Rights gains in the ’60s. For every three steps Blacks make, white reaction forces them to take two steps back. And in 2022, we should all be better than that.

As if anti-mask and anti-CRT protests were not enough, the old book-banning mojo got going. My former state representative Matt Krause put out a list of 850 books he wanted school districts to check. That was a brazen attempt to intimidate teachers and stop them from doing their jobs. In some locales, people are demanding cameras and microphones in every classroom to catch any teachers not toeing the conservative line. Little wonder so many hard-working educators are facing burnout. According to the Texas American Federation of Teachers, about two-thirds of teachers have thought about leaving the profession this past year. I’m only surprised it’s not 100%.

In my desk waste basket are the campaign fliers from the March 1 primaries. I’d like to burn them all, but its toxic smoke would undoubtedly destroy everything in its ugly path. All the Republican politicians do is brag how they’re well to the right of Attila the Hun and that Donnie or Teddy loves them best. Plus, they promise to ignore BLM more than the other guy. Reveling in their reactionary politics, they care little for the damage they have and will continue to cause, especially their hateful war on trans students and their families.

A friend of mine in Fort Worth ISD administration told me about a teacher who was one of the best young instructors she’d ever seen. Her room was decorated with eye-catching paraphernalia, and her classroom was filled with eager students who wanted to learn. She was exactly the kind of teacher we need now, yet one day she shared with my friend that she’ll probably have to quit the job she loves because of all the pressures on teachers now.

And this just in: Gov. Greg Abbott, without a hint of irony, has announced a task force to investigate Texas’ teacher shortage. I won’t mince words here. Good teachers are leaving because their jobs have been made a living hell by right-wing crazies. If Abbott really wants to improve teachers’ lives, stop using public education as a beachhead in the culture wars. Treat educators with respect and stop the constantly inflamed and hate-filled right wing from harassing them. And give them a bump in pay, too. Believe me, they’ve more than earned it.

 

Fort Worth writer Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue taught ESL at Carter-Riverside High School for 17 of his 26 years in the teaching profession.

 

This column reflects the opinions of the author and not the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com. Columns will be gently edited for factuality and clarity.

11 COMMENTS

    • Thank you, Angie. I was trying to write for you and for all current teachers. I wish all of you all the best. And keep fighting. Don’t give up!

  1. This is my 15th year teaching and its the worst year yet. All the issues mentioned in the article are relevant but the big gorilla being ignored in the room is student behavior. Which I assume is the real main reason teachers want out

  2. I had hopes for this article. What an incredible disappointment that it became nothing more than a gripe-fest with no real information. A complete waste of my time. I have lesson plans to prepare for my high school students. Maybe you can find a way to enjoy your retirement.

  3. Wow. These are the generalities and stereotypes that we current educators and parents try to teach our children NOT to do… yet this guy has a platform he gets to publish on?!?

    • My God this article says it all! I quit teaching after only 5 years. My daughter after 30. Thank you for telling it like it is.

  4. Bingo! Student behavior needs to be addressed, even more than this other stuff, IMO. And our districts… our state dept of education… needs to revisit the need for allowing strong consequences for those kids with off-the-charts disrespectful behaviors which are ruining our classrooms!

  5. I’m not leaving because of test scores, I’m leaving because of the attitudes of students and the weakness of the administration. Any kid that wants to pass just has to complain, and then the admin tells the teachers to pass them. “If you fail them, they can’t play sports” – as if it’s up to me whether that happens or not. Students skip school and they don’t process truancy cases or give any sort of detention for being late. Kids that lose credit by having too many absences make them up by spending an hour after school doing nothing in a room for each absence they have. Classes are 100 minutes, but the credit recovery is an hour and counts for two. Skip 200 minutes of class to spend 60 doing nothing to make it up? Sure! We are told we have to accept late work, no matter how late, and are yelled at if we give reduced credit. So picture this: a student misses 20 classes (an entire grading term). Spends 10 hours after school to make up the time, and gets assignments from their friends to dump on the teacher on the last day of the grading term. If that student fails, it’s blamed on the teacher because “they did their work” and they made up the hours, so now obviously the only reason they would fail is if the teacher is mean and hates them. The kid’s learned nothing.

  6. The title is what I truly relate to. As an ECE teacher, I am literally a piñata this year. Since when did it become acceptable to physically hurt teachers?

  7. Such an emotional response to a set of events. I am a retired teacher and probably a right wing crazy in the opinion of the author of the article. Very sad that public education is more filled with political views than education. Too much time is spent on books written by those such as Al Gore and not enough by authors such as Mark Twain. Too much time is spent on feelings and not enough on how to research, write,reason, revise and defend a position. We have ignored financial education but made room for sexual discussion practices and given space to Planned Parenthood in the school health clinics. Children still belong to their families. It is time that people who foot the bill for the buildings, employ the graduates, and make child rearing decisions step up and get involved.

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