Eighteen years ago I got a 4th grade teaching position in a fairly wealthy and extremely competitive school district in Fairfield County, CT.
I had just moved back to Connecticut from Pennsylvania where I had been teaching for five years.
After the principal offered me the job, I was sent to meet with the Assistant Superintendent.
She sat me down, and one of the first things she said to me is “Teaching is about the students. But it’s also about customer service. The parents are your customers. And you need to make them happy.”
I certainly had never thought of it that way, nor had teaching ever been explained to me in that way.
But when it came down to it, she was right.
Parents’ hard earned tax dollars paid my salary.
But now I’m on the other side of the table.
I’m the parent. The customer.
I know the teachers don’t really have a say in what exactly is being taught in the classroom.
But I’ll be honest.
As a customer, I’m not all that thrilled with the stuff my store is selling.
And I need to go straight to the store manager, if I want to make sure I get what I want.
The Administration. The Board of Ed.
They aren’t making me happy.
It’s not just our school system.
It’s across the country.
Public school systems aren’t giving their teachers, their customer service representatives, a whole lot of good product to work with.
I’m not interested in standardized tests.
And please do not even think about trying to sell me a fucking desk with pedals on it for my 5-year-old to sit at for six hours a day.
As the customer, that shit does NOT make me happy.
What would make me happy?
I want my kids to be happy.
I want my kids to wake up and look forward to going to school.
Especially the kindergartener, first and second grader.
I want my elementary schoolers to have recess twice a day.
Yeah. Twice a day.
That would make me pretty freaking happy.
I want them to have lots and lots and LOTS of opportunities for unstructured play.
Every hour, I want my kids to have the chance to get up and move. For like fifteen minutes. At least.
And not like sitting-on-an-exercise-ball-while-they-work kind of moving.
I want them to have fifteen minutes to do whatever the hell they want..
I want my kids to be in a classroom with students of all abilities.
I want them to learn to appreciate and recognize that all human beings have strengths.
I want my children to learn how to communicate effectively with their peers.
I want my kids to be presented with challenges that are similar to the ones they will have to tackle in real life.
And I want them to be coached through ways to solve them.
I want creativity to be valued as much as the ability to solve a math problem fourteen different ways.
I want my kids to really understand that mistakes aren’t opportunities to beat themselves up, but opportunities for growth.
I want my kids to spend their day feeling like they belong to a community, and feeling significant. Even if they suck at math.
Especially if they suck at math.
I want my kids to learn how to genuinely give and graciously accept compliments.
I want my kids to learn how to cook and sew and build stuff.
I want my kids to learn the importance of giving back, paying it forward, and volunteering to work toward a greater good.
Not just for a family in need during the holidays, but all year long.
I want my kids to spend as much time learning about acceptance and empathy and compassion and honesty and responsibility and cooperation as they do about reading and writing and social studies and math and science.
And it would make me really fucking happy if homework was against the damn rules.
As the paying customer, I’m ready for most of what’s being sold to me right now to be taken off the shelves.
Our priorities are all out of whack!
I’m really not worried about the schools making my child a better test taker or a better student.
Because I’d much rather see them helping my child to become a better person.