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6/25/2014 10:30:00 AM
Why I retired from teaching
Bucky's Blog

I have enjoyed the privilege of being an educator in our great community for the last 22 years. (36 years total) I love teaching and love my students. Yes, they can be defiant, disrespectful and unmotivated, but they are also very engaging, good-natured and fun. Being recently retired allows me the opportunity to share my school experiences in the hope that I can inform, in order to help reform, our schools. I am encouraging my fellow teachers to share their opinions and experiences in order to more effectively address the issues facing educators and schools today.

I was lucky to start my teaching career in Wyoming, which has excellent teacher training and high pay. When I started teaching in Kingman, it was a major change from what I was used to, but I loved the desert and the community. We are fortunate to have so many gifted, successful teachers in Kingman.

What is deeply concerning is the number of educators leaving for other states, retiring or just quitting the profession. Year after year teaching positions remain unfilled, subjecting children to substitute after substitute.

Compounding the problem is a new teacher accountability system adopted by Kingman Unified School District, which puts heavy emphasis on student test scores based on the abstract, complex Common Core standards.* In addition, KUSD purchased a micro-management teaching tool called "Beyond Textbooks" to keep educators on track.

During the last year of my tenure, I was pressured to conform to this strict teaching schedule with the same worksheets, tests, methodology, and teaching script as others teaching the same subject. Conformity was monitored by regular gradebook checks performed by department heads or data collectors. If a teacher did not produce the necessary results, they were put on an "improvement plan."

How did I handle this intrusion? I refused to comply. You can call it being "creatively insubordinate." Thank goodness I had a principal who understood my need to control my own classroom, which I had done successfully for 35 years.

I chose to leave at the end of this year and I was not alone. In KUSD, there were 84 certified vacancies at the end of May. This is unprecedented in my 22 years of teaching. I cannot begin to understand all the reasons behind the mass exodus. I can only share my own.

Arizona is 30th in the United States for per capita income, but is 47th in per pupil spending and teacher salaries. I am the last person to advocate tax increases, but I am disheartened and saddened by the lack of respect shown by Arizona voters and leaders toward our most precious resource, our children. The problems in public education are systemic and complex in nature. Teachers need to be given the freedom to try new approaches, not be limited by top down, one-size-fits all, factory models. Catherine Rampell in The Washington Post states "only about 25% percent of teachers graduate in the top third of their college classes, and an estimated 40 to 50 percent of new teachers quit within five years. Other professions offer better pay and less frustration." A positive start for our beautiful state would be to attract and retain good teachers. Great teachers can help build successful communities. Will there be good teachers lining up for jobs in Arizona?

I want to hear from others in the classroom.....

Dorothy Buckelew

Golden Valley

*Arizona has implemented a form of Common Core called PARCC, or Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards,

ICT - Dr. Mohtaseb
Related Links:
• Send email to Dorothy Buckelew

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Article comment by: Concerned Taxpayer

I have been reading the comments and find them disturbing. Having attend a few school board meetings to be informed, I am convinced that this district grabs on to any "program" they feel will help the students. My problem is too many administrators. I think it is time for a change at the top and work down - making changes at the top will show concern for the students.

Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2014
Article comment by: origional kingman resident

@Biker Randy

You appear to be under the mistaken impression that spring and winter breaks are paid vacations for teachers. Teachers' contracts are based on classroom days with an additional 3 days required just prior to the first day of school, for a total of 183 work days.

While teachers do not teach during the three weeks of spring and winter breaks combined they are not being paid for those days either.

Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Article comment by: Standards are not teaching

There seems to be some confusion. Common Core is a set of concepts students are expected to learn at a certain grade level. It does not mean that every teacher must teach them in a certain specific way, or the same exact way as every other teacher. There have always been standards for each grade level.

One thing that is apparent in every conversation is that parent involvement is involved in every success story shared on this topic. It has been shown over and over that parent involvement is the number one factor in the success of a student. It does not matter whether that student is in public school, private school or online school.

I have seen parents come o parent conferences with shirts that have fu on them and they wonder why their child has on attitude. I have called home to see where a student is and the parent is surprised when they check their room and they are still asleep. Don't you think a parent should know where they are.

I stopped assigning homework because parents would not even sign off on it or take the time to check it and the students would come to school the next day upset. Parents need to be the forefront of a child's education and our society needs to hold parents accountable not schools and teachers and everyone else. Parents get involved.

Posted: Monday, July 14, 2014
Article comment by: John Lee

We kept our son in Christian schools. He grew up a respectful, and creative young adult. His first two years of college he has been on the Dean's list, and is looking forward to continuing his education. There are alternatives to public schools, and I encourage parents to educate themselves, and find a better way for their children, out of the Socialistic public school system that has an agenda for your children that is not in their best interest.

Posted: Monday, July 14, 2014
Article comment by: T A

More Teacher Assistants should be acquired to assist Teachers.

Posted: Monday, July 14, 2014
Article comment by: a Big Mac is a terrible thing to waste .....

I blew through university materiel during one-on-one sessions with my 1st grade teacher at age 7, but there was nothing for the gifted during the 1950's. So from that point on, school was just a place to be ignored, abused, and waste lots of time and taxpayer dollars. It was at home, at libraries, and at my uncle's study (he was chairman of a department at his university), that I devoured countless books on differing subjects. To give young people a proper frame of reference for their thinking, they absolutely must immerse themselves in quality materiel. But then, not all kids have the same innate capacities, some - by preference or abuse - will not pay attention to what's presented, and anyway - with whom will they discuss what they have learned? So we're left with a mediocre culture, 25% of whom eat at McDonalds each week. Had to throw that in. Do you think Shakespeare or Robert Burns would have penned their masterpieces after whoofing down a couple Big Macs, fries, and a 24 oz. high-fructose corn syrup fizzie? (so why do you think kids will be inclined to deeper learning in class or afterwards after devouring that junk?)

Posted: Monday, July 14, 2014
Article comment by: A very concerned Mother

I have been reading all the comments on here. I do have to say that my children are far from standard to be taught in a standardized method of instruction and teaching. I do not feel that every child should be taught like the next. I have one child who is very smart and gets bored in class because he is done with the lesson and can't move on. Then I have one that is two years behind her group. Now, I do not feel that the smart one should have to wait on the rest of the class. But I don't except that the one who is behind to be moved forward when she really should be held back. That is what is wrong with society today. Everyone is so scared that they will offend someone else that we cannot tell a parent that the child really should be kept behind or moved up a grade to meet the child's needs. Each child is different and learns in different ways. We cannot conform them to learn the same way. What we need to do is put our Big Boy Pants on and start being parents to these children and be their speakers for this nonsense. It is not up to the teachers to babysit but to help education them so they may read, understand, and communicate in an intelligent way. I thank you teachers for all your hard work, Get rid of the Common Core and go back to teaching the way it should be done.

Posted: Monday, July 14, 2014
Article comment by: biker randy

@ no name.......... FYI I've had jobs I had to get training for on my own time too or take correspondent courses to get up to speed. At the time I was lucky to have a 2 week vacation a year AFTER I worked there a year. I didn't get Xmas vacation or Spring vacation either. I also had to work Veterans Day even though I am a veteran for decades. Until now I never whined about this and I'm not now. I had a BA in Business Admin./Marketing. Tell me some more how teachers are put upon for what they get paid.

Posted: Sunday, July 13, 2014
Article comment by: Highly Amused

Kids are not robots. They each have individual needs and process information differently. If we focused more on education and teaching each student to where they can process the information and understand, we'd have different (and better!) outcomes.We spend way too much money on this broken education system and pay our teachers way too little.

My dream was one to be a kindergarten teacher. Then I walked into a local school for my observation class. The next day I went and changed my major. That's how horrid the kids were.

We, as parents, need to be more invested in our kids education. We need to better support our teachers in the classrooms and our children's education. Instead of leaving our kids to their own devices, become engaged! Keep a notebook to write to your child's teacher if you don't understand something that you're trying to help them with. I'm sure the teacher would love it when there's an interested and engaged parent.

Posted: Sunday, July 13, 2014
Article comment by: No Name

Biker Randy,
Summer off, Really. They have to re-certify in order to keep their license. That means classes during that great vacation you elude to in you comment. They have to complete classes that the district has determined that they need. And just so you know for the upcoming year the common core class that the district has mandated is a 40 hour long course and it is they are not paid for that time its either do it during their "vacation" or else on their weekend away from their families. Oh that's right teachers don't have families only real jobs like yours does. When was the last time you boss told you you had required training and were not being paid for it. Yeah they got a 1% pay raise this year, but lets not forget the city pays the garbage man more money then many teachers are making and if you work for the County than average starting pay is about 6K more than a starting teacher who has to have a 4 year degree, pass a comprehensive license test on subject matter, pedagogy and be licensed. Yet, we have parents complain when the kids pass their classes work, but not the AIM's and therefore are not eligible for their diploma. Guess those college professors were idiots when they passed all those teachers. Good thing they have summers off.

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2014
Article comment by: Justa Citizen

Retired Teacher,
I had no intention of going over everything wrong with our educational system. For one thing, we are limited in characters.
Also, you have no idea how long it has been since I've been in a classroom, and besides that, what difference would it make. That's like saying a president shouldn't serve as CIC if he hasn't been in the military.
Setting aside all that, it appears that we do agree to a certain degree.
I mentioned unions make it hard to fire teachers, you say it is the administrators. My guess is that it depends on the district, sometimes it's the union, sometimes the administrators, sometimes other things. How about let's just fix the problem of getting rid of the bad teachers?
You say Common Core is not causing the sky to fall, it just needs some fixin'.
None of the multitude of new ideas over the last 40 years caused the sky to fall, but none of them worked either. Probably because they all needed some fixin'. How about we decide what schools are supposed to do (educate our kids) and go from there. This would necessitate us eliminating all the feel good programs and social engineering bs and get back to education.
Our educational system is fixable but we have to decide what we want it to do and quit jumping at every new idea that comes along.

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2014
Article comment by: sara donnell

I pulled my daughter out after 6 months of kinder. She is in sped and becausr of the lack of good teachers she wasnt learning anything bc no one had time to sit with her and help her... They wanted to leave her back bc of her speech.. I know have her in k12 at home and she going into the 2nd grade... no thanks to kusd... They really need to work on getting more special ed classes

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2014
Article comment by: biker randy

A good teacher has to do more than just read to the students out of a textbook. I know of at least 1 teacher that does that.

Let's also not forget their pay is for 9 months, not a year. What other employee get's a whole summer off every year?

Posted: Monday, July 7, 2014
Article comment by: Jusr The Facts

Just to clarify...The PARC and the common Core are not the same thing. The Arizona College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) are the state's version of the Common Core Standards. PARCC is a consortium which is developing an assessment, as are other agencies, to measure students' achievement on the CCRS. Arizona was a part of the PARCC consortium and recently withdrew to avoid a conflict of interest when the state finally does decide which assessment to choose.

Posted: Monday, July 7, 2014
Article comment by: School for Sale

Dorothy -- I'm sure you are aware of the underlying reasoning for the pressure on teachers to quit, and public schools to fail, don't you?

Without good teachers, schools will fail. Parents will switch to private schools which will further destroy the public schools.

Once there is no more public option, schools can behave like private colleges do: SKY HIGH TUITION rates.

What will parents do? They will no longer have any other option. This is how you create your own billion dollar industry: By beating down the public choices.

So dont act like this is all a surprise, or that the state is actually trying to help education. They aren't ---- they are molding this into a new money making industry. That's all.

Posted: Monday, July 7, 2014
Article comment by: Left Kingman Too

Just to add a few more comments that may be affecting the education of Kingman students.

1. They continue to hire for positions at the district yet they increase class sizes. Some kinder classes had as many as 30 plus students.

2. When problems do arise and the DO is involved nothing is ever followed through with.

3. The Board needs to get out and visit the schools and see what is really going on instead of just believing what an administrator is telling them. Uniforms were an issue last year - just changing the uniforms does not change behaviors especially if the admin does not support teachers or doesn't follow through.

Allowing D students to play sports - if the district doesn't believe their students are more capable and can do better by setting higher standards don't expect the kids to raise the standards. Put education first. I bet every student would raise their grades if C's were required.

There is so much good and wrong about Kingman schools. Maybe a change at the very top is due - they have changed everything else except that.

Posted: Monday, July 7, 2014
Article comment by: Retired Teacher Presently Volunteers In KUSD

As a retired teacher I'd like to thank all my fellow teachers.

I have to chuckle (better than showing anger) when experts like Just Acitizen know what is wrong with our education system yet haven't been in a classroom for decades. Let's look at the reasons they love to throw around for a weakened public school system.

Unions and tenure - "you just can't fire those bad teachers". Wrong. Tenure does not prohibit the dismissal of any teacher. It does require legitimate and documented causes. The real problem with allowing poor teachers to remain in the classroom is lazy poor administrators. Administrators fail to document then when questioned fail to even recount factual causes for the firing. It's not unions allowing poor teachers to remain in our schools, but poor administrators.

Then there are those claiming Common Core is causing the sky to fall. Some of the criticism is correct. The burden teachers find themselves strapped with regarding testing and repeated testing is interfering with time that could be used to actually teach. Testing and evaluation is of course needed. It is important to know where students start and how effective instruction is. Level out the testing part of Common Core and you'd have an outstanding program to move our education system forward.

Posted: Monday, July 7, 2014
Article comment by: No Name

@Jaime Escalante
"can you imagine what's left over?" Yes I can its the teachers who are in it for the kids. They like the original author of this letter are those who have a calling to tolerate ignorant people who day in and day out will not control their own kids for fear of making them mad and losing their friendship, yet want the teachers to do the dirty work for them. They are the ones who continue to hope that one day the administration or board will see that there is something really wrong and say enough we have got to rethink what we are doing. Its about a score you are all right. An artificial number taken as a snapshot in time that tells us all where the kids are and what kind of teacher they have. How would all of you want to be gauged for a raise based on how well someone who had a spat with mom or dad that day did on a test of questions that have no real bearing on life or career skills? Its time for all of us to take time out put away your online life, get to a board meeting and demand accountability from everyone from teh student all the way to the administrators, to the board members and when they refuse go to the voting booth and bring in someone to the board who will be listen. Its clear that a few are trying.

Posted: Sunday, July 6, 2014
Article comment by: 12 years with a Master

Me, too. I have worked so hard to be able to have a conscious connection with each student in order to bring out his/her best. Having to treat them all exactly the same is so hurtful to them. They suspect we don't care about them, but rather their scores. Sadly, for administration, it's true and that uncaring pressure is trickled down to the student. After 12 years, I have to be finished now. I just can't take what the administration wants me to do to your children. It's absurd. Good luck everyone.

Posted: Saturday, July 5, 2014
Article comment by: Jaime Escalante

KUSD's options may be limited...offer $28k/year for a job that requires a bachelor's degree to get, continuing education to keep, no raise in sight, disrespectful students, clueless leadership and then pray to the gods of bespectacled nerds everywhere that you can find someone dumb enough to be willing to work under those conditions yet smart enough to read the textbooks.
1/2 wise up and leave every year - can you imagine what's left over?

Posted: Saturday, July 5, 2014
Article comment by: origional kingman resident

@Justa Citizen

"This is thanks to making teaching easier to get into, harder to be fired from. Teacher unions are just interested in collecting money from the teachers and could not care less about the teachers"

Teacher unions have no influence over teacher pay and the retaining of, or firing of teachers at KUSD.

Posted: Thursday, July 3, 2014
Article comment by: Left the District too

I really appreciate the comments of the "No Name". You have said what many are afraid to say. There are so many in the district that feel the same way but out of fear of retribution stay quiet. We have all seen teachers nicely encouraged to leave or placed on an improvement plan for those disagreements. They were great teachers. So many great teachers left this year.

Those that left were in core areas such as math, science and language arts. The going pay is about 20K just to leave the state. Little things like good job or thank you are lacking. Yes, we are grateful to have a job but also we need to live. You would be surprised how many teachers qualify for free and reduced meals for their own kids.

I think Kingman should put the trust in the teachers. Pay a livable wage. If they would stop buying into every program they could pay more. Think of all the programs that have fallen to the wayside, ITI, Character Counts. PBIS, BT, and there are more.

The other change is the thought that the parents will not get more involved and we can't make them. Why can't we increase the standards - they are required at KAOL. Why should the kids care if the parents don't. I hope the district reads all of these posts and creates an environment so that teachers want to stay.

Posted: Thursday, July 3, 2014
Article comment by: No Name

Until parents start to hold the district accountable for their children's education and how this district treats its employees and spends the little money we get the Administration building is going to continue to run our education system into the ground and micro manage those who teach. The old business manager used to saw you should be glad you have a job when teachers and staff talked about a raise like quality teachers grew on trees. It does take time to grow as a teacher and programs like BT do not allow you to grow. The writer of this article is not alone in her refusing to use BT. Last year it was found that well over half of the staff had not even signed on to BT since their initial training. We are paying a huge chunk of change (well over 50K) for this program because the administrators would not enforce the old curriculum maps that had been written. What makes them think that if they would not enforce a curriculum that was generated by the teachers was not being used having one that is forced upon us because some other school district came up with it is gonna work? Don't believe the districts talk about how great Vail does They have failing schools just like we do. Get with it Kingman. Stand up and be counted. Attend board meetings and demand accountability.

Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Article comment by: biker randy

@ Beth..........if you're a relatively new teacher I can understand your economic frustration, brought on by 2 sources, lack of funds from your school district to do your job properly and having to pay too much for your education.

Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Article comment by: Beth McElroy

Interesting comments, but little being said about the funding issue. Kinda hard to teach at the highest level during the day after a second job at night or on the weekends, and spending one's own funds to buy things needed in the classroom..........

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