This blog post was first published here.

By MI Fellow Heather Gauck

Imagine my surprise as I was cleaning my basement this year and came across this piece of writing. I had written it for my government class on October 10, 1989 — just shy of my 17th birthday. You can only imagine my shock as I read this now, after being a teacher for over 20 years myself. Clearly, we continue to struggle with similar issues. Now, finally, is the time to modernize and elevate the teaching profession. We simply can’t wait another 27 years.

Who teaches the children of America? It seems that now the children of this nation are being taught by some teachers who are not properly trained. We have been concentrating on these inadequacies and while doing so, we’ve pushed the qualified teachers to the back of our minds. Then we get upset when these qualified teachers go on strike.

Teachers of the present do a lot more than just teach. Over the past 25 years, their jobs have changed dramatically. They now are not only asked to provide a good education, but also address even more complex and diverse social problems. Add onto this the ever-increasing population of students who are learning English. For the teachers to convey and relate information to students, it takes training and support. Society has developed the idea that teachers should succeed with everybody, all at once: the economically disadvantaged, racial minorities, and also the learning disabled. According to some people, no one took these issues seriously a generation ago.

While these responsibilities and demands have grown, teachers have not been rewarded with better pay, benefits or better teaching conditions. They have little or not enough moral support whatsoever to continue on with what they were educated to do: teach. They are burdened with overcrowded classrooms, inadequate or outdated equipment, and long hours. At the same time that all this is occurring, in a panicked rush to improve their schools, many states have added new and often more difficult requirements typically without any input from the teachers. These teachers of course are not perfect, but before anyone criticizes them they need to walk in the teachers’ shoes.

If school administrations keep ignoring teachers it can cause consequences like having the teachers quit. Many teachers do not bother to request transfers — they just quit. Half of all new teachers leave the profession within five years. However, despite their frustrations, many teachers are still content with their choice of career. They believe that they have an impact on the kids, they feel important.

Heather Gauck is currently a K-3 Resource Room Teacher for Grand Rapids Public Schools. She has been teaching in this district for 20 years and still loves to work with students who find school difficult. She started the first 1:1 iPad Pilot in her district and embraces the immense possibilities technology can provide for the learning process. She feels that the Fellowship will enhance her position by providing her with tools to share her story and collaborate with other passionate educators. She believes it is the job of educators to figure out how to meet individual needs by engagement, differentiation and authentic learning. Her involvement with technology prompted her to teach a Blended Learning in the Classroom course to other Michigan teachers. She grew up in Alaska and commercial fished for salmon for 9 seasons. She enjoys snowmobiling, boating and traveling!