FL parents, students and teachers worried about the new school year
New state-mandated curriculum rules add to the list of things teachers must overcome to get kids learning.
As teachers, students and parents prepare for the 2022-23 school year, the Herald was curious how the start of this year compared to others.
The Herald spoke to a handful of teachers, a student and a parent to find out what was on their mind, what they were feeling, what, if anything, concerned them and what continues to excite them :
Thoughts of leaving the profession
Charles Carr started teaching 15 years ago at Carol City Elementary, the same neighborhood where he grew up. The first year was “trial by fire”, but over time – and with the support of seasoned teachers and the “academic freedom to draw on my own experience” – it began to thrive. This year, however, he moves to a new school and once again has the butterflies of a first-grade teacher.
Each year, he looks forward to developing new ways to motivate students and watch them grow. But, he admitted, he considered leaving the profession.
The compensation — after more than a decade of experience, he earns about $700 more than a first-grade teacher — is a factor, relative to job stress, in the false narrative that public schools have let down their students and the political climate in education.
Carr said he would be surprised if most teachers didn’t consider leaving the classroom.
High school years marked by the pandemic, politics
Sixteen-year-old Jackie Escudero is both nervous and excited about her senior year.
“It’s a mix of emotions,” not just about classes and seeing his friends – or showing the way to his younger brother, an incoming freshman; she also thinks about the unknowns, like “what if there’s an outbreak of monkeypox?” Her time in high school was shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, school closures and protocols.
Now Jackie said she’ll be watching to see how politics influences the classroom. “Students notice everything that’s going on politically,” she says. “We have conversations with our teachers, at least those we trust. But it affects what happens in our schools.
She doesn’t know how new laws, like the Parental Rights in Education Act, dubbed ‘Don’t Say Gay’, will apply on campus, but hopes it will soon become ‘clearer about what students can do to speak out about right and wrong.
Aimie Moreno visits several schools to provide special education services to students who are deaf or hard of hearing. She worked for Broward County Public Schools from 2006 to 2009, then returned in 2015, about 10 years in total.
This year, her home insurance went from $3,500 to $6,700 a year, so she got a second job tutoring for three hours to supplement her annual salary of $48,800. Financial pressure, however, made her consider a career change.
“To be very honest, I regret my life decisions. I’m considering going back to school,” she said. “I have friends who are bartenders or hairdressers, and they earn more than me.
“And not only am I upset as a professional, but I’m worried as a mother of two in the school district,” she said. “What kind of education do my children get here when they are taught by disgruntled and angry teachers?”
Pivot to private schools
Pinecrest parent Marika Lynch thinks public education is the “backbone of democracy,” but transferred her twin sons, who graduated from Palmetto Middle School in the spring, to Ransom Everglades School, the private school in Coconut Grove, to start their first year. year. Last year, she transferred her youngest son from Pinecrest Elementary to Palmer Trinity School, the private school in South Miami-Dade.
Nonetheless, she was for about a decade — and remains — an active parent in the school district. She has volunteered with the district’s Education Excellence School Advisory Board and most recently co-led a petition of more than 2,000 parents to get the Miami-Dade School Board to reverse its decision to ban a health and sex education textbook for middle and high school students. The council did so at the end of July.
“I try to support the teachers without annoying them too much because I know they have a lot to do,” said Lynch, 49.
“I think our teachers are amazing. I just feel for them. They’ve been through an incredibly stressful time with COVID and now they’re being told how to teach Black History. They are not allowed to mention what it means to be gay. And on top of that, they are among the lowest paid teachers in the country. It is not fair. No wonder we have a shortage of teachers.
Lynch, who owns a non-profit consulting firm, said she understands and sympathizes with teachers who want to change professions, although she “hopes to God they won’t”. As for students, she is worried about the impact of new state measures.
“I’m really scared for this generation children and their perspectives on our history,” Lynch said.
Left Broward to teach in Tokyo
His anxiety attacks began right after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland in 2018, after nearly a decade working for Broward County Public Schools as a teaching staff. The shooting – coupled with a salary of around $40,000, which forced him to live with his parents in his late 30s – prompted Shane Cook to move to Asia in 2019.
“I took time off,” said Cook, now 39. “I took a leap of faith.”
He signed a two-year contract with an international school in Tokyo, earning about $10,000 more. He soon felt better about his financial situation, thanks to a higher salary, a cheaper cost of living, and the removal of his car.
But in 2021, after his furlough ended, he returned to South Florida instead of resigning. He wanted to give his hometown schools another chance and taught at Oak Ridge Elementary in Hollywood.
“It’s just as bad, if not worse, than before – the student behaviors and the lack of staff and how exhausted everyone is; everyone is in survival mode. It’s just not a positive environment in which to thrive.
He started having more anxiety attacks and higher stress levels. He took it as a sign to “return to the international realm”, he said.
For the next school year, Cook is back in Tokyo and plans to spend at least the next two years there.