Teacher’s Resignation Letter A Heartbreaking Reminder Of What We’re Doing To Kids

Wendy Bradshaw became a teacher because she wanted to help children learn and prepare them to succeed in life. Sadly, however, Bradshaw’s Master Degree, with a focus on childhood behavioral disorders, could not have prepared her for the reality of today’s classrooms.

After being forced to make her students cry every day in class, Bradshaw resigned from Polk County schools last October.

Her resignation letter goes straight to the heart of the problem with America’s schools.

She writes:

The children don’t only cry. Some misbehave so that they will be the ‘bad kid’ not the ‘stupid kid’, or because their little bodies just can’t sit quietly anymore, or because they don’t know the social rules of school and there is no time to teach them.

The teacher’s background in childhood behavior disorders helped her understand that these weren’t ‘problem children’. They were just normal children trapped inside a problematic system. While they may not have arrived at school with behavioral disorders, they were likely to leave with them.

Bradshaw’s letter goes on to explain:

I can say with confidence that it is not the children who are disordered. The disorder is in the system which requires them to attempt curriculum and demonstrate behaviors far beyond what is appropriate for their age.

This is what happens when lawmakers, not teachers and parents, get together to decide what’s best for children whom they will never spend a single day with.

It’s also what happens when the power to educate is taken out of the hands of educators.

Bradshaw writes:

The disorder is in the system which bars teachers from differentiating instruction meaningfully, which threatens disciplinary action if they decide their students need a five minute break from a difficult concept, or to extend a lesson which is exceptionally engaging.

She adds that:

The disorder is in a system which has decided that students and teachers must be regimented to the minute and punished if they deviate. The disorder is in the system which values the scores on wildly inappropriate assessments more than teaching students in a meaningful and research based manner.

All across the US, teachers and students are being subjected to this kind of strict regimine, which many, like Bradshaw, believe is doing more harm than good.

Rather than improving student performance, student test scores are declining.

As the Washington Post reported here in November:

Fourth-graders and eighth-graders across the United States lost ground on national mathematics tests this year, the first declines in scores since the federal government began administering the exams in 1990.

Reading performance also was sobering: Eighth-grade scores dropped, according to results released Wednesday, while fourth-grade performance was stagnant compared with 2013, the last time students took the test.

Testing of students in 2013 also showed a decline from previous years.

While some might be willing to support high-stakes testing if there were evidence that teaching to the tests was improving student performance, the opposite is true.

Under No Child Left Behind, which ties teacher pay and school funding to student test results, kids and teachers are subjected to an enormous amount of pressure. The consequences of this failed experiment stretch beyond the academic, as Bradshaw’s letter illustrates.

All across the country, educators report “rising numbers of children struggling to manage their emotions in an academic environment.” The problems are most pronounced among the youngest students, teachers say.

As Oregon Live reports here, in recent years “more students are coming to school unprepared or unsettled, which can lead to tantrums, running from the classroom, despondent behavior or physical aggression.”

As Bradshaw points out in her resignation letter, it is not the children who are disordered. It’s the system.

Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images