Two teachers air concerns, frustrations

Proposition 301, passed by voters in November, will raise teacher pay.

But pay aside: What are the other concerns and frustrations teachers face today?

Two local educators spoke frankly.

Melissa Marquez, who teaches fourth and fifth-grade alternative students in the Kingman Elementary School District, said the state standards are frustrating to her.

"The standards are not an issue," she said.

"We all like goals and having a plan, and they're a means to create lesson plans so we have a guideline for the standards.

"It's the overwhelming challenge of getting the standards to the kids and finding enough time to incorporate them all."

If standards were concentrated in three general areas of reading, writing and arithmetic, teaching would be easier, Marquez said.

But there also are standards in science, social studies, computers, library, health and physical education that children in the elementary grades must know by the time they reach high school, she said.

Higher standards of student discipline need to be developed so students realize the importance of school, Marquez said.

That also ties in with more parental involvement, she said.

"There's just not enough time to do all the things you love to do with students," Marquez said.

"I'd really like to get into projects that are highly detailed and cover many aspects of academics.

"An example would be a social studies project that involves math, science and a lot of reading about the specific topic.

We call them thematic units."

More skills classes and alternative programs need to be created as well to accommodate the needs of different students, she said.

Linda Seifers teaches a grade 5-6 skills class at Black Mountain Elementary School.

She is in her 30th year as a teacher and 15th year with the KESD.

Many students come to school ill-prepared, as many families do not make education their top priority, Seifers said.

She said there is nothing she can do about that.

However, she has two other frustrations – unnecessary paperwork and the amount of time spent on testing.

"We're required to write the standards into our daily lesson plans," Seifers said.

"That does nothing to improve the education of the children; it's just busy work.

"I don't have a problem with standardized testing, but we test the kids to death and then there are no results as an outcome for how they did on the tests.

If they don't do well, we're not providing them with the programs to help them get caught up."

Seifers said she has 25 students in her skills class, about twice the number she should have to deliver the most effective instruction.

An increase in the student population at Cerbat Elementary in recent years has led the district to re-assign some Black Mountain teachers to Cerbat, she said.

As a result, class sizes are now rising at Black Mountain, Seifers said.

Teachers also distribute an average of two fliers per week at Black Mountain for students to take home.

They come from 4-H, Boy and Girl scouts and other worthwhile causes, but again they have nothing to do with the education delivered in the classroom, Seifers said.

"We're an easy place to disseminate information," Seifers said.

"When we send out fliers, we may touch 4,000 households."

Elementary teachers make out six or seven lesson plans daily that cover math, English, social studies, science, spelling, reading and writing, Seifers said.

It is time-consuming but necessary paperwork, so teachers do not need extra unnecessary paperwork on top of it, she said.

"I truly believe what we are doing, instead of putting together smaller classes and skills classes, is developing middle management that does not come into contact daily with students and that means more paperwork," Seifers said.

"I'm not talking about principals and assistant principals, but rather testing coordinators and activities directors.

They give us things to do, but not in a way to help teach the kids."