A Cambridge Public school Teacher, Susan Sluyter, recently did an interview with the Washington Post for her resignation letter to the school board. In her letter she states how her experience as a teacher has shifted from a passionate child development entity to a high demand of tests and data entity. Meaning, her job has been altered to follow a protocol politicians and officials have deemed to be the “correct” way to teach education, rather than interacting play with academics. Sluyter, who was a Kindergarten teacher, further states her concerns in detail via her resignation letter.
“February 12, 2014
I am writing today to let you know that I am resigning my position as PreK and Kindergarten teacher in the Cambridge Public Schools. It is with deep sadness that I have reached this decision, as I have loved my job, my school community, and the families and amazing and dedicated faculty I have been connected with throughout the district for the past eighteen years. I have always seen myself as a public school teacher, and fully intended to work until retirement in the public school system. Further, I am the product of public schools, and my son attended Cambridge Public Schools from PreK through Grade 12. I am and always have been a firm believer in quality public education.
In this disturbing era of testing and data collection in the public schools, I have seen my career transformed into a job that no longer fits my understanding of how children learn and what a teacher ought to do in the classroom to build a healthy, safe, developmentally appropriate environment for learning for each of our children. I have experienced, over the past few years, the same mandates that all teachers in the district have experienced. I have watched as my job requirements swung away from a focus on the children, their individual learning styles, emotional needs, and their individual families, interests and strengths to a focus on testing, assessing, and scoring young children, thereby ramping up the academic demands and pressures on them. Each year, I have been required to spend more time attending classes and workshops to learn about new academic demands that smack of 1st and 2nd grade, instead of Kindergarten and PreK. I have needed to schedule and attend more and more meetings about increasingly extreme behaviors and emotional needs of children in my classroom; I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, “I can’t do this! Look at me! Know me! Help me! See me!” I have changed my practice over the years to allow the necessary time and focus for all the demands coming down from above. Each year there are more. Each year I have had less and less time to teach the children I love in the way I know best—and in the way child development experts recommend. I reached the place last year where I began to feel I was part of a broken system that was causing damage to those very children I was there to serve.
I was trying to survive in a community of colleagues who were struggling to do the same: to adapt and survive, to continue to hold onto what we could, and to affirm what we believe to be quality teaching for an early childhood classroom. I began to feel a deep sense of loss of integrity. I felt my spirit, my passion as a teacher, slip away. I felt anger rise inside me. I felt I needed to survive by looking elsewhere and leaving the community I love so dearly. I did not feel I was leaving my job. I felt then and feel now that my job left me.
It is with deep love and a broken heart that I write this letter.
What Product of Society likes about Ms. Sluyter’s actions is that it shows a clear implication that the current school system is not only stressful for our students, it is also stressful for our educators. Many teachers like Sluyter genuinely have a passion to teach and educate our next generation of students. Though it may not be the conventional ways society has converted our educators to teach, an educator who has a passion to teach usually will still possess the necessary characteristics to help a child learn. Moreover, not only can these special type of teachers help one learn, they can also show how learning can be fun. When a child is able to possess an enthusiastic passion for knowledge and life at a young age it helps one’s mind to naturally seek ways of learning. As a result, when you have an entity that serves as the platform of where one can learn at; school, a child can thrive in that environment. However, like what Suzi Sluyter states, what has been happening in our school system for the last few years has been hurting the way society’s children learn. Western society lacks the arts, sciences, and expressive classes our European peers have in their school systems. By no means is this a shot to America’s intelligence, we have some of the smartest and most talented students on this planet, however, what good is this notion if one’s mind is being suppressed in an entity that should do the opposite.The irony.
Test this, test that. Study this, regurgitate that.
It’s sad that our school systems are becoming so crazy that this letter had to come from a kindergarten teacher. Honestly, this type of teaching system has been hurting our society’s students for many years now, which is a correlation of why it is in the condition it currently is in. Like Ms. Sluyter, we at P.O.S. have seen the way our education system is failing our students. Likewise, that is one of our main reasons for writing this blog. Important information doesn’t have to be mundane, you just have to change the way one perceives it. We hope this article and Suzi Sluyter continue to help people realize our current actions are bigger than just, it’s for our generations to come.