I am going to write several pieces on my experience as a public school teacher and why the institution has become a national insult. My first article deals with my first year as an English/History teacher in Costa Mesa, California. I chose to share this because this experience parallels that of many other first year teachers.
My master’s degree, which I’m still paying my student loans for, is in education. I wanted to become a teacher because of the wonderful teachers I had throughout my life who helped make a difference. I felt I owed it to society to do the same.
I first set my eyes on Southern California because I knew there was an educational crisis, especially since many of the incoming students didn’t speak English. I knew my Spanish speaking and writing skills would come in handy, even though not all of the incoming foreign students were of Spanish descent. My first job was teaching English and History at a junior high school in Costa Mesa, California. It was a nightmare.
I taught two ESL classes where I watched as students drew swastikas and wrote anti-American, hateful slogans such as "La Raza" and "MECHA" all over their textbooks. When I told the principal about it, she said I would be better off ignoring it. I also taught one honors eighth grade English class, where I expected students to come into the classroom with an advanced level of reading and writing. I was shocked to learn that “eighth grade honors,” at this particular school, meant any student who could read and write past a sixth grade level.
Our principal, who was finally fired by the school district a couple of years later after serious lawsuits, said that we had to make the students feel good about themselves. She certainly didn’t like it when I mentioned that these students wouldn’t feel good about themselves when they learned they were actually behind other students, not ahead.
I also taught the “Opportunities” class, a politically correct name for a class for bad kids. This class was a last resort for students who couldn’t function in other classes, or students whom unqualified teachers didn’t want to deal with. My first dose of reality occurred when one student, a very smart boy who came from a very troubled home, threw a chair. I fractured my wrist when intercepting the chair, which could have severely hurt another student. Thinking I would gain some sympathy or even become a child-saving hero, I was the one who got in trouble for not being able to control my class, while the student barely received a slap on the wrist.