Life’s Not Fair, But School Should Be

Life's Not Fair, But School Should Be

Fiona Penn, Focus Editor

At a public school in America, all children are supposed to be guaranteed a good education. As someone who has been through the public school system, I can tell you that we aren’t getting the most amazing educational experience. I’m okay with that. My family isn’t spending thousands of dollars per year toward my education, in addition to taxes, like many families with students in private schools. So, no, I don’t expect the top technology to be in my school. I don’t expect a college prep curriculum and a variety of electives on par with that of universities. And I think that’s okay.

 But what I am entitled to is a fair education. I should have the same opportunity to succeed in my classes as my peers. This is not the case at West Potomac.

Let me give you an example. Last year, I had a great chemistry teacher who stayed after school to help us and tried to explain everything to us one step at a time. Although I hate chemistry with a passion, I know it wasn’t in any way due to my teacher’s competence. Many students in that class went on to take AP Chemistry, in part because of their teacher’s dedication to helping them succeed.

But another chemistry teacher, who has since left West Potomac, did not give students the same level of commitment. My peers in that class frequently told me stories of not learning anything for an entire class period, or of the teachers trying to explain something and just getting frustrated and stopping. Most of them were eager to learn and actually wanted to understand chemistry, but weren’t getting the support they needed.

I gave a close friend of mine my Blackboard password, just so she could access my teacher’s notes, to supplement the shoddy ones her teacher had given. The students in that class didn’t learn chemistry, or if they did, it was through strenuous effort outside of school. Some students with the less dedicated, such as junior Josh Shelton, felt that the caliber of learning was so low that it wasn’t a class at all. “I didn’t take chemistry, I had free period,” remarked Shelton.

Students shouldn’t have experiences like this. Fortunately, this teacher doesn’t teach at West Potomac anymore, but problems like these still exist. Some teachers have been known to choose favorites and not give help to those they aren’t ‘friends’ with. As one junior said, “It’s annoying when teachers are busy socializing with students instead of giving individualized help.” Whether or not a student succeeds in classroom shouldn’t depend on the their teacher’s competence or their teacher’s opinion towards them, but rather the student’s work ethic. On top of that, when one teacher teaches a class differently than the rest of the department, it makes life harder for the other teachers. I’ve had teachers not be able to give back the hard copy of our tests so we can start corrections because another class is far behind and hasn’t taken it. I assume for the teachers at our school that are dedicated this is extremely frustrating.

I say all of this with extreme caution. When trigger-happy bureaucrats hear a hint of dissatisfaction with teachers, they immediately say that the answer is standardized testing. If anything, standardized tests have made this situation worse. In all honesty, I don’t know a solution to this problem. More department meetings? Easier way to fire teachers?

All of these solutions seem like either too much or too little. In a recent interview with The Wire, Principal Case observed that he saw a lack of uniformity within departments as a problem as well.

So if we’re all agreeing that there is a problem, what’s the solution? This is a problem I see as just as important as budget cuts and security. I’m asking the administration the administration to change this situation before it negatively affects any other student’s education.