Jennifer Mangrum is on a mission.
Mangrum was a teacher for 15 years and now helps prepare tomorrow’s teachers as a professor at UNC-Greensboro’s highly-respected School of Education. She also has had op-ed pieces in many of North Carolina’s major newspapers, making the case that the things the General Assembly is doing for education are likely, in her view, counter-productive in the long run.
Among those things was the “grading system” that was started for parents to know how well their child’s school was performing.
“I think the intention was to hold schools accountable,” says Mangrum. “But what we found through research is that an F school pretty much just determines the level of poverty. And when you have high numbers of kids in poverty, they don't have all those wrap-around resources, right? They don't have health care, they don't have vision care. Some of them have a scarcity of food.”
But there are a number of problems, according to Mangrum and teachers with whom we spoke.
Several, like veteran teacher Claudia Walker and younger teacher, Mireya Ruiz, both spoke about how teachers don’t have the autonomy they need to teach, since every child is different and teachers have different teaching styles and methods.
“It all revolves around testing,” says Ruiz, who teachers at the same elementary school she attended in Siler City. “So, I would like to do different activities with my kids but when there are all these standards I have to teach, there's no time for that.”
Walker, who has taught in Title I schools for 25 years, says it’s about finding resources wherever she can. She’s successfully written for and won a series of grants to help supplement her teaching.
“Whether it's a university or a local business or a corporation that's in our area, we have them helping us and saying, 'You're educating our future employees. We want to help you bring them along so that when we get them, we have exactly what we want,’” says Walker.
And Mangrum points out that, for many in the profession, teaching isn’t a job, it’s a calling. But along the way, many potential teachers don’t have the support that they need from a variety of people in their lives.
“If your child is getting ready to go to college and they said they wanted to be a teacher, a lot of people say, 'Don't do it,’” says Mangrum, as she continues to list the litany of reasons people often give young people for doing something else with their life. “One, they're not paid well; two, they're not as respected as they should be; they're over-worked. Even teachers are telling their own children not to do this. And teaching is the most important job.”
Hear more from all three of these teachers in this edition of the Buckley Report.