A local teacher is making waves after posting her resignation letter online.
Pauline Hawkins is leaving Liberty High School in Colorado Springs after more than a decade. She tells 11 News she believes the education system in Colorado is on a downward spiral and she's ready to get out, citing low pay and standardized testing as two major reasons for her departure.
But it's her resignation letter that has grabbed the attention of people across the country.
I have sweet, incredible, intelligent children sitting in my classroom who are giving up on their lives already. They feel that they only have failure in their futures because they’ve been told they aren’t good enough by a standardized test; they’ve been told that they can’t be successful because they aren’t jumping through the right hoops on their educational paths. I have spent so much time trying to reverse those thoughts, trying to help them see that education is not punitive; education is the only way they can improve their lives. But the truth is, the current educational system is punishing them for their inadequacies, rather than helping them discover their unique talents; our educational system is failing our children because it is not meeting their needs.
I can no longer be a part of a system that continues to do the exact opposite of what I am supposed to do as a teacher–I am supposed to help them think for themselves, help them find solutions to problems, help them become productive members of society. Instead, the emphasis on Common Core Standards and high-stakes testing is creating a teach-to-the-test mentality for our teachers and stress and anxiety for our students. Students have increasingly become hesitant to think for themselves because they have been programmed to believe that there is one right answer that they may or may not have been given yet. That is what school has become: A place where teachers must give students “right” answers, so students can prove (on tests riddled with problems, by the way) that teachers have taught students what the standards have deemed are a proper education.
As unique as my personal situation might be, I know I am not the only teacher feeling this way. Instead of weeding out the “bad” teachers, this evaluation system will continue to frustrate the teachers who are doing everything they can to ensure their students are graduating with the skills necessary to become civic minded individuals. We feel defeated and helpless: If we speak out, we are reprimanded for not being team players; if we do as we are told, we are supporting a broken system. For the full letter click here.
Hawkins says standardized testing hurts the students she has taught during her years as an English and Journalism teacher, and it also funnels away funding that could be used to improve schools and increase teacher salaries.
Hawkins says in her own experience, if she wanted to stay and teach she would have to get a second job just to provide for her family.
Though she's leaving the education field, she says she will continue to be an advocate for her students and fight for their rights "as individuals."
"They aren't just a number or data. They are people with a name," she says.
Hawkins is moving to New Hampshire, where she will be closer to family. She plans to focus on her writing.