2nd-grade teacher respectfully airs his grievances, quits his job on YouTube

Dec 18, 2012 By Abraham 31

Last week, Rhode Island public school teacher Stephen Round wanted to read his letter of resignation in a public meeting, but he didn’t get the chance. So he read it to a camera in his kitchen and posted it online.

I doubt he expected it to be viewed by many more people than were at the meeting he originally intended it for, but his message is one that a lot of people want to hear…

(via Gawker)

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31 Comments

    1. ABSF says:

      Admirable educator! Thinking about quitting, but for different reasons, i.e., too great a workload requiring at least 3 hours per day working at home. Health comes first!

    2. shel says:

      I know there are many,many teachers who these feelings. I certainly do….. For once I’d like people to realize teachers aren’t the problem…it is the system and lack of support, time and resources that teachers face daily. I’ve taught kindergarten for 25 years and love this age group. Kindergarten isn’t what it use to be. Students range of ages can be a 18 months spread in my state. As long as a child is 4 by December 1st, he/she can enroll in kindergarten. This year, if you what state funding, kindergarten program are full time, every day. Now we have to really be babysitters to those who are not really for the new standard core requirements, pacing guides and lack of experiences to be successful in their firt year of formal schooling. Kindergarteners MUST be able to read and add/substract before leaving kindergarten. Forget that they have never been away from home 5 days a week for 6 hours and must follow this heavy academic structure; not to mention parents who don’t understand what’s going on in education. Example, I had to test my students for fluency to be able to complete 6 addition problems and 6 subtraction problems within a timed (1 minute) period. Most could not even count at this stage!
      Who’s the blame.. Of course, the teacher! All students must be able, with fluency, identify all letters (upper and lowercase) and letter sounds by the end of October. (That’s the pacing guide imposed on us) Students must be able to independently be able to write stories, write in science and social studies journals comparing and contrasting “data”. That’s not even half of it! I am not given books to teach reading (just a few will do in a class of 26) or time or an “aide” to help students. It is a one man (woman) show and who suffers but my 4, 5, and 6 year olds. I have spent over $3000 this year out of my own pocket this year for materials. Prep time is a joke.
      210 minutes, by contract, is suppose to be given to teachers each week but get this… No one supervises the playground or behaviors in the hallways appropriately. 2 teachers on the playground of 150 students-students pushing running, using inappropriate language, misuse of playground materials and 2 teachers to hop around trying to control it all. Specials (PE, music, art, etc are scheduled to give the classroom teacher the 210 minutes of prep time. BUT the special is schedule into transition times where you have to dismiss students from the special early to get them to lunch, buses, etc. on time. Thus you don’t get that prep time “required” by contract.
      My class has over half that are “schools of choice” students. Of course, my class is too big but we get state money for “schools of choice” students so we have to have them in our school system. The students are continually late, have more behavior issues and have no real connection to the community. Money is more important than the students we teach. Now we have Spanish for all students. Really! Don’t get me wrong, learning a language is great but at the expense of learning reading and writing, etc. I have students who speak only Spanish (by the way, I don’t). I spend a good portion of they day working with these students. They get all the extra help-Hey, my kid was born here and I can get her help with reading. What’s wrong with this picture????
      This is an English speaking country; children should be speaking English when they come to school. What a waste of money and these kids don’t “catch up” until the middle or end of elementary school. Meanwhile, your child, who was born here, speaks English, has fallen behind.
      Now a new evlauation system for teachers. We as teachers are judged by scores -Set goals 95% of your students will be reading at level 10 or you are an effetive teacher! 2 years of being ineffective and say good bye to a career you love and continue to use your own funds and time to support as well as continue your own education (at your own expense) to be the best you can be. And to top it off no more increases- take benifits and start chipping away at your retirement. Why do we teach? We love children! We want to make a difference in some young person’s life and have him/her continue on a path to be alifelong learner and contribute to society in a positive, productive manner. Our efforts are all for the love a child and we get pushed and knocked around and yet teachers continue to put up the good fight. God bless all of you.

  1. Laura says:

    I used to frequent an all women’s gym in a metro area around the same time a a group of teachers. This was a frequent topic of conversation – that they had little to no control over how their classrooms were conducted due to district curriculum requirements, and how they didn’t enjoy teaching any more due to that fact. Sad state of affairs when good teachers are lost because they are tired of being treated this way.

  2. KristenS says:

    My mom teaches 5th grade, and after 29 years of teaching she is seriously contemplating retiring early simply because the bureaucrats in New York State have stripped all learning from the school system while implementing more and more frequent and difficult standardized tests, holding the teachers accountable for scores of students who shouldn’t have been passed out of 4th grade, and for home lives with parents who believe that a 5th grade teacher should be teaching their children basic manners and etiquette, or who get mad at her when she requires their child to do their homework.

    She’s had parents come into conferences while under the effects of marijuana or alcohol, she’s had students come in after not having showered for weeks, she’s had some years when half of her class is a grade or two below reading comprehension levels, and somehow she is expected to not only comply with an increased number of standardized tests, but bring them up to the grade level they ought to be on.

    The principal is rarely any help, he is only there to preserve his jobs. Neither are the mandatory unions (NYS is not a right-to-work state, you’re in the union or you don’t teach), who are only there to preserve their own paychecks and rarely help teachers improve any of these situations.

    The sooner we get bureaucrats out of education (whoever thought THAT would end well??) the sooner our teachers can get back to TEACHING, and our kids can get back to LEARNING. Imho.

  3. Josh says:

    My wife teaches in an elementary school, and all of this sounds extremely similar to the problems she faces. She is a phenomenal teacher and has already received recognition and advancements in her school and district that many teachers never get, and she’s only in her 4th year of teaching. However, she’s already fed up with similar problems in the educational system, and is considering finding another line of work. I hate that the terrible system that is currently in place is driving away the people that are desperately needed to change it. This guy’s got some serious courage to take this leap, and I applaud his willingness to stay true to his educational philosophy.

  4. DebbiR says:

    I teach college freshmen at a small liberal arts university. Over the course of my 9 years of service at this college, I have seen a marked decrease in my students’ ability to read, write, and even think. They know nothing about world or American history, they don’t seem to be able to understand what they read (IF they read at all), and they can’t write a complete sentence. They DO know how to take tests, but only if the tests are multiple choice, and they can use the test-taking strategies they’ve been taught since second grade. Of course, this characterization doesn’t apply to all my students, but the percentage of students in my classes that are actually ready for higher education grows smaller and smaller each year. “Test-taking” is not a life skill, but it’s apparently the only skill that matters in most school districts.

    1. AnnR says:

      I also teach at college level and completely concur with your assessment. I teach foundation design and art courses, and you would think these students would be more creative than most. However, with rare exceptions, most are afraid to take risks, a requirement for creativity, and want to be told what to do and how to do it. Even when they are given such direction, as you say, they don’t read instructions and/or don’t comprehend what they read. I taught an art history course last quarter, and the students’ papers were largely incomprehensible. Yes, even when I have given tests, students don’t know how to reason through what they don’t know. If they don’t have an immediate answer that they have memorized, they give up. When I was their age, I was told that America had the best public schools in the world. What happened?

  5. Alicia Hathcock says:

    Mr. Round, I am so sorry Rhode Island has lost such a fine teacher as yourself, one with scruples and integrity and a love for fostering education. I, too, was an elementary teacher for 20 years and faced the same bureaucratic nonsense you mentioned. Unfortunately, our society has deemed that teachers should be able to mass produce well behaved, educated students as though they were sitting in a factory on an assembly line. All that matters are test scores that do little to address children’s learning problems or their abilities to function in society. Bravo, Mr. Round, and I wish you much luck.

  6. Bunny says:

    Hello, I would like to let you know most of the East coast schools have forgotten the principle of learning. I have since moved my children to the mid-west where they are receiving a great education now. Two of my children are being helped (offered without pay but the board here insists on paying) for their reading and math in which they were taught some in Maryland and was not taught correctly (they passed them with out them actually knowing the curriculum). I believe if you love teaching children maybe a change in scenery is an option. We live in Iowa now and my second to the youngest daughter is the top of her class. She eats a breakfast at home and from what Connie (the cafeteria cook) tells me she goes in every morning and gets breakfast. Which is eaten in the cafeteria, along with all her friends. They have three recesses throughout the day, and if the weather is bad they play games indoors or some of the teachers will take them to the gym. I am proud to have my children in a school that holds the same standards as yourself. As for the field trips every years different grades do different things, Blank Park Zoo, or to the pumpkin patch, and they even get to ride horses. As for the parties, They have them for practically every Holiday and Birthday (we are even allowed to bake cup cakes and bring them in for the kids) If you ever feel you still want to teach, there are many openings here in Iowa. Just remember, Do not give up there are still a lot of children out there willing to learn.

  7. Kandi says:

    Ever since I was 5, I wanted to be a teacher. I remember working with younger students all during my elementary and junior high years, assisting them with reading, writing, etc. I was one of the few people in my circle of friends in college who didn’t have to think about choosing my major in my junior year. I graduated, got a elementary teaching job two weeks later, and was so excited to help young minds grow.
    The excitement wore off not long after the term began, as I was instructed to start “teaching for the test” that students had to take starting in third grade (mind you, I was teaching FIRST grade). All kinds of funding relied on the test scores, so school districts across the state were rabidly working on how best to get the students to master the test-taking skills within the time allowed. I lasted for two years before burnout hit.
    I moved to another district in the state, and was met with more of the same. For three and a half years, I attended workshops on test-taking, sat through faculty and team meetings in which the subject was discussed, and tried to herd my students into the right direction for test-taking success. Like the gentlemen commented in the video, things were often sacrificed to make room for the curriculum mandated by the district – often to the detriment of the children.
    I had such a bad taste in my mouth from my few years of teaching that I sincerely doubt that I will ever go back into the classroom. As much as I miss working with children (and there are many days that I miss it terribly), I just know that I could not handle the politics and BS that teachers endure in the majority of public schools. God bless those who dedicate their lives to educating the children, despite all of the crap.

    1. Dottie C. says:

      Aren’t these tests the result of “no child left behind”. And the fact that ever since Reagon and then Geo W, public schools have been on the disband list (although politicians will deny this). The pushing of charter schools with no standards to follow or private schools vouchers all of which mean further loss of public school funding only add to the problem. Because of these ridiculous demands by the feds, our school administrators and boards are all fearful of losing their funding and having to try to raise taxes in an economy where heads will keep rolling.
      But the feds are going to “fix” the educational systems. Ha! Let the teachers keep the autonomy that they used to have in their classrooms by teaching what was needed and more in interesting ways that the kids will remember.

  8. Titus says:

    My name is titus i an 10 and in 5th grade, what this teacher said is true. For awhile i hade an Iep and even though i was suppose to have recess it was in writing would get it taken away alot because i forget to raise my hand in class. How does this help me or anyone….. sitting quitly for 7 hrs in impossiable even for adults, every person needs breaks !!!

  9. jellybean says:

    I’ll start by stating that I am a teacher.

    YES, things are hard for teachers and students. YES, things have greatly changed. The fun coloring sheets and such we did when we were young will NO LONGER be acceptable. We do need to teach students to THINK for them selves, to learn for themselves, to experience the curriculum for themselves. Thats why (mostly) as a nation we’re switching to common core. Students ( and teachers) who aren’t familiar with such rigor in the classroom WILL struggle, until common core becomes the norm. Now with this said– we MUST STOP blaming teachers for society’s weaknesses. If you’re going to hold me accountable for my students’ learning- FINE. But I also expect you to hold students and their parents accountable in some format as well.

    BTW- did you catch he was making over 70k? what school system is this, I may need to apply. I’ve got three degrees and I’m not making anywhere near that amount.

  10. Chris says:

    How many times did I hear my mother-in-law airing those same grievances during her career teaching 5th and 6th graders? Like this gentleman, she kept at it as long as she could put up with the “bad” parents, students, fellow teachers and administrators (unfortunately including her principal). Once she hit her breaking point, she retired.

    And her main emotion at retirement? Guilt over “abandoning” the few kids and parents who saw school as a means to an education, not as a public-funded daycare. My job has its share of stress, but I cannot imagine being in her situation.

    To those teachers who care about their students, and care about their profession and passing on knowledge to our children: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope that in spite of the daily trials and tribulations you face, you know that there are many of us who appreciate you and what you do (or did, as the case may be).

  11. Bee says:

    I’m not in America and therefore can’t judge the American schooling system myself, but in my secondary school it was the exact same problem. In all six years I attended school there was not a single field trip. I had two good teachers, the rest did not care about us students and simply wanted us to get the work done, pass the exams so they looked good, and get out. It felt like I was on a factory belt being churned out with the rest of my classmates, there was no individuality and identity was not encouraged, we were to simply ‘represent the school’. It really was the worst experience and in no way did it prepare me for the real world. Education systems all over the world need to be completely abolished and started fresh. Although I guess people who actually think for themselves aren’t wanted anymore. I wish there’d been more teachers like this guy in my school!

  12. Ellen says:

    Dear Mr. Round,

    I am profoundly sorry that this has been your experience, and that a teacher with so much to offer is being snuffed out of a dysfunctional system. I wish I had some kind of silver lining thing to say, but the best I can do is say this: I heard you; many others have heard you; many others will hear you; and even though I understand why you are leaving, I’m glad you were there. Good luck and take care.

    Best wishes,
    Ellen K

  13. AmiDUtch says:

    If all the ‘good’ teachers quit, what will become of our children? They will have to face teachers, superintendents and educrats who will have monopoly on further deterioration of the system and we will never get out of this downward spiral!

  14. mich says:

    Sadly, the school district won’t care. They will think, not say out loud, “teachers are a dime a dozen, we won’t miss him”. And that is a real trajedy. The whole thing is messed up. Not just in Rhode Island, either.

  15. Christina says:

    I can not emphasize enough how much we need more teachers like Mr. Round. This video brought me to tears. Here is a man with real compassion and integrity. The kind of teacher that has a positive and lasting impact on our children. The kind of teacher that helps foster a lifetime love of learning. Teachers like this help us parents raise caring and productive children. Thank you for your service Mr. Round. Thank you for sharing and therefore being a part of the solution.

  16. Nick says:

    Mr. Round makes some valid points. As a 20 year teaching veteran, I totally get what he is saying. But he left his students in the middle of the school year. Left. His. Students.

    A doctor doesn’t quit his practice mid-surgery. A fireman doesn’t quit his job mid-fire. And you don’t leave your students without knowing it can totally upend their educational stability.

    Again, many great points, but I think the timing of his resignation and his YouTube debut had more to do with him and not being able to speak at the school board meeting than it had to do with the future of his students.

  17. Beth says:

    Good Luck to you! I completely concur with your opinion. In Kindergarten we do not have time to play or hardly teach. We assess assess and assess some more! Very sad for these children!

  18. Nan says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I am on a School board in Michigan and have been worrying over these same issues. The assault on teachers and the creative classroom has been hurtful to education. Good luck to you in the future and thank you again for speaking up.

  19. Understandable says:

    What you said is so true but if we all quit what will our children have left?
    Educators are smart and creative. We always find a way to do more than just teach
    To a test.

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