Gay Barnes is a first grade teacher at Horizon Elementary School in the Madison City school system in Madison County. She was the Alabama Teacher of the Year for 2011-12. Like many, she is very concerned about the proposed RAISE Act. Here are her thoughts:
I have been a public school teacher in Alabama since 1988 and am midway through my 25th year of teaching elementary school. I love my work. I love the children I teach and the families who support them. I have committed my entire professional career and much of my personal life to working as hard as possible to be the absolute best teacher I can be for my students. I walk into my classroom every day aware that the children in my room should have the same education I wanted for my five children when they were in school and that I want now for my grandson.
I have read the RAISE Act and know it will have negative consequences for the children I teach. I know this because I work in a classroom everyday and the children I teach are wildly complicated and singularly unique individuals. I do not know what the intentions are of the people who drafted this piece of legislation. But what is being proposed will not strengthen our schools but will tear them down. This legislation minimizes and trivializes the work my colleagues and I do every day.
I have worked hard to learn and to hone my craft. I have a PhD in Literacy/Reading Education, and I am a National Board Certified Teacher as an Early Childhood Generalist. To suggest I will work harder for more money suggests that I am not already working as hard as I can on behalf of my students. The reality is I am working hard, very hard, as are all of my colleagues.
I could share many stories about students I have taught. I have taught in schools of both extreme high-poverty and extreme affluence and schools in between. The worth of my students can not be measured by how well they perform on a test nor can they measure my worth as a teacher. It is heartbreaking to know that policy makers refuse to accept that much of the work we do in public schools can not be quantified, and it is these parts that make the greatest impact on the students and families we serve.
Every teacher I know welcomes accountability. We want to know the work we are doing is giving our students all they need to become happy, healthy, adults prepared to meet all of the challenges of life. We want them to finish high school ready to enter college or the work force and be contributing members of society. To do this, we need the support of policy makers and stakeholders who understand the realities of life in my first grade classroom or a fifth grade classroom or any classroom in the state. Currently, our policymakers don’t seem to understand these realities, nor do they seem to want to learn about them from the people most qualified to teach them-Alabama’a educators.