I grew up in Vermont and attended Fayston Elementary School. I graduated in 2006 with a class size of nine – three boys and six girls. I went on to Harwood and graduated in 2012. Right after that I left Vermont to attend college in the South and now I am an elementary school teacher in southwest Virginia. I teach at a Title I school where around 90 percent of the students are on free or reduced lunch. I provide snacks for students out of my own pocket and test scores are considered more important than children’s behavior or feelings. I teach anyway. The maximum amount of students is shoved into classrooms nearing the state limit of 30 at times. I teach anyway. Students lose their name and face; they become a number. I am a third-year teacher and I struggle to get to know each student and their life at home. It’s December and I still feel as though I am failing. You may wonder why this has any pertinence here in the small-town Valley Reporter.
I’m sure you’ve gotten many letters in the last few weeks regarding the discussion of the potential closing of Fayston Elementary School. I can confidently tell you that my years spent there were the best years of education I’ve ever had in my life. From making butter with Mrs. Boyden, attempting to spell my first challenge word “as” with Ms. Snow, listening to “Love That Dog” being read by Ms. Lewis, or deconstructing rotary phones, making and presenting projects on Marie Curie or getting to share stories I had written to the class in Mrs. Vasseur’s class, every teacher at Fayston knew every student. You weren’t just a number or a test score. Nobody saw you as a failure or a success. I knew I was a work in progress – as was everyone else. I knew my teachers cared because my class sizes were small. I knew my teachers cared because they could greet me in the morning and my first interaction was always positive because they weren’t overwhelmed with 22 other students or rushed with checking in homework. I got personal attention. Everyone had personal attention. I had a name.
Part of me feels like I’m the teacher I never wanted to be telling my students to “tell me later” and when I hear them say, “You never have time for me,” it breaks my heart. I teach anyway.
Please take time to think. This vote and change shouldn’t be about what is manageable for a teacher. The school board needs to reflect on what is best for the children. Education will no longer be personalized or differentiated. It will be standardized. Social emotional skills get pushed to the side as well. Teachers may suffer and get burnt out, but at the end of the day it is the children who suffer most. It is the children who won’t be heard because the teacher is too busy with the many other students; she can’t hear about what someone did over the weekend or the waffles they had for breakfast. I try to the best of my ability to emulate the environment I had growing up in Fayston in my overcrowded classroom. I try to fill it with love (while hiding frustration), but you have an opportunity to keep things the way they are and foster education that is rich in differentiated instruction and filled with kind and caring teachers with manageable class sizes.
Anyone from the school board is always welcome to come to where I teach, tour around, shadow me for a day and see how different it truly is.