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After a 34-year career in manufacturing as an engineer, I decided to become a Wilson County Schools lateral entry teacher at the Wilson Academy of Applied Technology, teaching ninth-graders advanced manufacturing.
My second career lasted one semester.
I went into teaching aware of the usual public school system gripes; low pay, mouthy kids, no supplies, overtesting, etc. These issues are present but they did not heavily influence my resignation.
I gave up because of the continued philosophy and long-term vision that we must have a “common core” and “no child left behind.” After three months of accompanying 15-year-olds to both breakfast and lunch, accommodating various student disabilities, indulging teen club activities, filling out lesson plan templates and developing school emergency procedures, I recognized how little of my time was value-added teaching time.
Near the end of my tenure, my class did a root cause analysis of why local employers find graduates unprepared to work for them. We concluded that because all students learn differently and are accommodated at school, they don’t learn in traditional ways. Unfortunately, industry — especially high-tech manufacturing — expects a new hire to learn its way, which means reading the work instructions, executing tasks and asking questions. My ninth-graders did none of these things well. This is the reason employers say graduates lack “common sense.”
I commend educators for using visual, auditory and tactile teaching methods to transfer knowledge to all students. The teachers I worked with at WAAT and across the WCS system are the most patient, good-hearted, underappreciated professionals I’ve ever met. However, most employers are none of these things.
I conclude three things based on my brief teaching career:
• 1. High schools should not try to be everything to everyone. Different students need different expectations — in different schools!
• 2. Teachers teach the defined curriculum.
• 3. Teachers enjoy finding the strengths in, and nurturing, every child, and I fear that because of their good nature they will always be underpaid and underappreciated.
Scott B. Fleck