This is a warning right at the start. Today’s words are not the usual “Remembering back” column that usually recalls yesterday’s memories of people and places that have come and gone over the years.
Maybe the news staff at the Claremore Progress should move this to the editorial page. Editorial or not, this needs to be read. In order to present the subject in the best way possible, let me pass on the words of one of our teachers at Westside School. What follows is an Email letter she composed this past week.
“Heavy-hearted and down right angry this evening. Oklahoma legislators (past and present) and special interest groups who back them have wreaked havoc on our educational system, as well as plenty of other agencies.
As a Pre-K teacher this point of the school year is always intense. Have I met the needs of each of the 39 students in my charge? Have I adequately informed parents of progress, achievement and developmental milestones reached…and yes, concerns of those which are delayed?
These early spring weeks are always filled with up and down moments. Little Mae, who struggled for so long, has finally gained enough motor strength to write her name legibly. Young Phillip, whose birthdate makes him one of the youngest in class, has made great strides in learning to regulate his own behavior. He’s not perfect, but who is? Cassie has learned the value of her voice and dictates clever and insightful stories each time free choice is offered. Then she painstakingly illustrates those stories and requests staples to bind her ‘real book’ as she proudly calls them. Dalton has discovered he can recognize sight words on his own, while Davis longs for an adult to read him his library book because no one at home can find the time. Then there is Stella who is simply not making progress and the worry of whether she will be ready to proceed to kindergarten in the fall keeps me and her mama up at night.
The list of accomplishments and struggles goes on and on. In fact, it’s really a never-ending list. What about the little guy, now in first grade, who still seeks me out for the daily hug that I’m afraid his addict father doesn’t provide. Or the fifth grader who uses her well-earned classroom rewards in exchange for reading to my class, knowing full-well that I will enjoy bragging on her efforts.
Speaking of EFFORT, that is our school-wide word of the month for March. By definition, effort is a vigorous or determined attempt. As a wife, mother and teacher, a great deal of effort is required of me; just as it is for thousands of others in the state of Oklahoma. My question to our state leaders is this:
How much sincere effort have you put into fixing these crises? HOW MUCH?
There is so much I could, and probably should, add, but I’m tired. I am tired from putting in a full day, sure. More than that, I’m tired of wondering whether failing funding, depleted resources, and departing colleagues will ever be restored.
Mostly, I’m tired of wondering how long my spirit and energy can hold out under the pressure. I am tired of measuring my intense effort, only to wonder if it will come up short.”
These feelings were composed by Laura Titsworth, known as “Mrs. T” by her current and past students and their parents. She also happens to be my daughter.
Younger daughter Christi Hendrix teaches Pre-K Special Education at Broken Arrow. Both face the same problems as do teachers across the state. Wages far below the national average, needed materials not available, not able to give individual attention to students that need it…the list goes on and on.
It is safe to state any teacher could go out and find a better paying job. I know for a fact my two daughters could…and unless something changes…may be forced to do so someday. If so it will be with heavy hearts. However, the problems cannot be solved by higher salaries. There is much more to be done to improve our educational system. Other states have stepped up and done so.
It is past time to circle the wagons and stand with Oklahoma teachers. In doing so we are also standing up for all the little Mae’s and Cassie’s and Dalton’s and Davis’. Their future depends on the result.
Pardon the personal language here, but it is high time Oklahoma legislators get off their butts and do what is needed for our schools.