Funding Programs Like the NWP States that Education Matters

 

Shannon Ruiz: UPWP

Guest Blog by Shannon Ruiz

 

While visiting my parents’ home this week during our Spring Break, I came across an assignment from my high school years. As I was not much different from my own students, there was no header or date indicating which class it was for or what year I wrote it. From what I could tell it was from eleventh grade as other entries in the notebook were talking about choosing my preferred college and “next year being my last one.” The assignment uncannily forecasted my future teaching high school in Northern Michigan, earning upper level degrees and having a passion for examining education, poverty and crime. (It even pinpointed the approximate date of my wedding to my husband.) The simple slip of notebook paper refreshed my sense of what matters.

I was reminded of the reasons I didn’t choose a career in mathematics
or computer science as my parents, school counselors  and even
neighbors wished for me. I thought of the fortunate opportunity I have
each and every day to work with students at that same age I wrote that
assignment at and help them understand the value of communication and
what the implications of it are in the world at large. I was reminded
of the emptiness I would have felt in a position where I wasn’t able
to collaborate with other teachers and students and inspire students
to push harder and further in their own education.

This assignment and the recollections that it brought with it landed
at such a time when it has been particularly demoralizing to be a
teacher. Governors in our region have been attacking teachers for not
doing enough with budget cuts, for asking for continued collective
bargaining rights and for not solving the financial problems created
by others elsewhere. It has been hard not to let the negativity affect
the my morale both in and out of my classroom. In a society where
education is already undervalued and people believe that because they
have seen a teacher teach, that they understand the amount of time,
effort and attention that goes into teaching, it is increasingly
frustrating to see educators tied to the stake and made the sacrifice
for all the problems in our country.

Despite the continued attacks on teachers, our profession and our
motives for getting into it, one thing has continued to ease the
frustration and anger of being vilified by public figures: knowing
that teachers and what we do in the classroom matters. Despite the
economic climate of our community, or perhaps because of it, the
parents and students at our schools care about education. They
understand that graduating with a diploma is not easy for everyone,
that pushing through tough homework will pay off in the end and that
teachers are there to lead and help and they are there because they
care almost as much about their students as they do for their own
families.

Programs like the National Writing Project help to keep teachers
inspired with the vision of what teaching can be, rather than letting
them get bogged down by the stress and bureaucracy of what teaching
frequently holds. Collaborating with other teachers who value
education, writing and improving the educational environment ensures
that we as a nation of students and innovators remains fresh. Funding
programs like the National Writing Project states that education
matters, that we are not satisfied with what is “good enough” and that
educators looking towards the future will help our communities
flourish.

Shannon Ruiz
Teacher Consultant
Upper Peninsula Writing Project
4/8/11

Shannon Ruiz and her daughter Ella

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