Teacher Confidential: What it's really like JCPS teachers

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by Renee Murphy

WHAS11.com

Posted on May 20, 2013 at 10:40 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 21 at 12:15 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- With the news of 41 Jefferson County Public Schools teacher laid off making headlines and Kentucky's top education chief saying “academic genocide” is going on within JCPS we wanted to talk to teacher to find out what is really going on inside the classroom.

Their story in their own words - teacher confidential if you will - from the people who spend nearly every week day with your children.

“They are all great kids and we love them all but they come in with issues and you have to deal with those issues first before you can teach,” one teacher said.

You may think you know what it takes to make a good teacher.

“It's really stressful making sure that the kids are ready to learn,” another teacher said.

But these educators said they want to take you inside their world.

“There have been several times where there are fights and I've been punched in the face. I've been knocked down on the floor. I've been pushed over and things like that. It's just kids being kids cause you never know when something is going to set somebody off because everybody is different," a teacher said.

These teachers agreed to talk to us, if we didn’t reveal their identity, especially after hearing terms like "academic genocide" being referenced for JCPS by the state education commissioner Terry Holliday.

“What I saw was a whole group of children that were being removed from the economy and probably ending up in your prison system,” Holliday said.

Holliday is referring to persistently low achieving schools in JCPS.

“There are a lot of kids that have emotional issues and they come into the school and they may be abused may not have what they need to grow well. They come into the school with anger and they don't trust anybody.  They can't sit in the seat and function like a lot of the students can do. So you have to do what you can for those students,” a teacher said.

“I really hope every stakeholder comes in and helps these kids out cause the kids really are our future,” another said.

One teacher we spoke to works at a priority school - one the state is focusing on after years of low performance. The teacher said the school has a high percentage of students on free and reduced lunch.

“When you get through the door you are going to have that one student comes in screaming and yelling, that one student looks at them cross eyed and their throwing a fit and they are starting to punch and you have to be on top of it. You have to see it before it happens and then you have to get them in an settled before learning can even happen and then it may happen again in the middle of the day,” the teacher said.

They said their challenges are great and their role is teacher, counselor, social worker and parent.
Many times they said it may take half a class period or day before instruction can even begin because of the troubles the children face. Sometimes the problems are too great for them to even tackle.

“Sometimes it's hospitalization because their acting out could be so severe that they can't function in the classroom,” one teacher said.

They said they love their jobs but want the public to understand what it is they really do.

“We don't go home at four o'clock. We don't have our weekends free and writing that lesson plan doesn't take an hour anymore,” a teacher said.

“Every day is a puzzle for us and we have to figure out how we can best reach them because there is no silver bullet for education,” another teacher said.

Another issue teachers are facing is violence toward them.

In the 2011-2012 school year there were 90 recorded assaults on teachers in Jefferson County Public Schools. The district acknowledges the challenges for teachers. They have highly skilled educators that work like coaches for those in the classroom. In the coming weeks the school district will begin renegotiating their contract with the teachers union.

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