Education, Guest Post, Teachers — June 27, 2013 at 12:06 pm

GUEST POST: I think I can finally write about it: They closed my school.


Caring teachers shouldn’t be treated this way

The following is a guest post from Carina Hilbert who blogs at the blog The Grumpy Language Teacher blog.

In this piece, Carina describes the closing of her school where she was doing what she was called to do: educating our students. As you read it, it is very clear that this is an educator who puts her students above all else. More importantly, you see a school system where progress was truly being made. Despite this, her high school in Albion is being closed due to budget constraints.

It’s a sad testament to our lack of investment in our public schools that dedicated teachers like Carina Hilbert are seen as “unaffordable”. I look forward to the day when Michigan teachers are seen as the valuable assets they are, not as “expenses” to be trimmed because our state government isn’t willing to make the necessary investments in public education.

I think I can finally write about it: They closed my school.

I was a proud Albion High School teacher. I will never forget the sheer joy I felt when I got the job at Albion–both times, the first being the long-term sub job and the second being the full-time job. I remember Mr. Crum telling me that they’d decided to keep me on as a long-term sub and the look on his face when I started jumping up and down and then got teary-eyed that I got to stay in such a great school. He was a bit shocked, apparently. I had a similar reaction when I left the superintendent’s office after she offered me the job for last year: my chest hurt with unshed tears of joy.

Yes, AHS was a great school. Did we have problems? Sure, we did! Oh, trust me, we did, and I don’t have time or space to write them all. Communication was our biggest problem, but that was just the start of a very long list. I still maintain we were a great high school, though, because the list of what we did well was far longer than the what-we-did-wrong list. Oh, the things we did right:

  • We raised our test scores from the 5th percentile to above the 50th in the state in two years. Two years! No one else has done that, and that should tell anyone right there just how amazing our students were. We had some of the best students around, and it was a real honor to work with them.
  • We only had one fight all year in the high school and only one the year before that. I’ve had people ask me how I dealt with the shootings only to get totally flummoxed–we had no violence in our school. In my year and a half, I never had to break up a fight, the longest I have ever gone as a teacher, by the way. I never had to clean anyone up from one, and while we all ran into hallways to deal with kids starting to get angry, our amazing students never took it to the next level in my hallway or anywhere where I was.
  • I saw such amazing progress in my students that I’m still a bit chuffed just thinking about them. My freshmen came into my class last fall below where they should have been, and their final writing/research projects were amazing. They all grew so much in less than a year! My seniors fought me at times, especially on getting their paragraphs stronger, but at the end of the year, I saw each of them writing better paragraphs, better essays, and showing better evidence of critical thinking skills. My AP kids did amazing personal anthologies that made us all laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. I could go on and on–we really did have some of the best students anywhere.
  • We had more support for our students than any other school I have ever been in. Graduation coaches, social workers, support staff–you name it, we had it for our kids. We had the best school secretary ever who knew everyone, knew whom they were related to, and what everyone liked. We had a college coach from MSU who worked in our school part-time and was a driving force in getting our kids scholarships, getting into the right college, and then navigating FASFA and all that came after. We had support staff that knew each and every student, knew what classes each needed the most help in, and then knew what to do to make it happen. I will miss them no matter where I am next year.
  • We had parents who tried. Every time I called a parent, I talked with someone who was trying, working hard, and who wanted to help us all help his or her student be successful. Some were ready to fight for their kids, and I can’t help but honor that as a mom myself. We could not have had the successes we had without our students’ parents.
  • We had traditions that we didn’t let die, no matter who wasn’t there anymore to run it or who was in charge. Who could ever forget that basketball game right before Thanksgiving or the dodgeball tournament or the field day? The school play was wonderful, so at least some of our students got to act despite everything against a drama program. My fellow teachers worked above and even above that and beyond to make everything as positive as a high school experience could be, and even the students respected that. For our last senior class, they still had their senior send-off, one of the best traditions I have ever witnessed in a high school. I wish our students, no matter where they go next year, will still get to have that tradition wherever they go.

It still hurts to think about too much. I went to the rally for public schools in Lansing yesterday as a former Albion teacher, and even then, it hurt to talk about with other teachers from other districts. At times, it was difficult not to cry, but honestly, what I deal with more often is anger. I am so angry that all those adults have let down my students. My students deserve to have a safe, positive school environment with teachers who know and love them and all the support and great extra programs they need to be successful. They don’t deserve to be scattered to the winds or sent to a district ill-prepared for them. My students deserve the best because they are the best. I just hope everyone else can see that.

I may be gone from AHS, but a piece of my heart will always be there, hidden away in room 121, where magic happened, students learned and grew, and lives were changed. We are all Wildcats.

Original post at the Grumpy Language Teacher blog HERE.