What is education like now? Part II

Adult Figure Involvement: Mentality is key

Unsurprisingly, a big factor in student attitude/attainment to education is parental figure involvement (1). Parents tend to be very active in lower years (Kindergarten through grade 5), but not involved as actively as the child progresses (2). Factors that affect parental involvement include parent educational attainment, ethnicity, and perception of school climate (3). Generally, people who value education have higher degree attainment amongst their children (3). Parents who don’t value education will not participate as actively as those who do value education (3).

In fact, one of the most consistent predictors of children’s level of educational attainment is their parents’ level of educational attainment.

C. Spera, K. Wentzel, & H. Matto (2008)

And, hey, I get it. When it seems like teachers “teach to the test” and consider your child just another number, why put in effort in supporting that environment? But that’s exactly when you should increase your involvement. Make sure the teacher remembers you and your child (preferably favorably). Ask how to help your child at home or what skills they should be working on. Interest beats apathy every time.

But parents aren’t in this alone. As public schools are funded by the community, society opinions on education have a direct effect on a student’s education. Many schools struggle to pass levies due to the perception of education in general or the quality of the specific school. Funding for classroom supplies, printer paper, student activities often falls to teachers and students themselves– two populations who cannot afford to fund these expenses.

Children often start the year with new supplies, but they lose them. The burden for replacement falls on the teacher as students need the item right now in class to learn. I make $46,000 (this is including the five-years grandfathered from my previous institution). Teachers can make 750 copies (individual pieces of paper; double-sided counts as two) per month. I have 180 students. Things that I have to supply for my classroom: pens ($14), pencils ($12), lined writing paper ($10), folders ($14), notebooks ($10), tissues ($25), hand sanitizer ($12), expo markers ($24), colored pencils or markers ($20), and highlighters ($9). These items are often one use items as the students take them to other classes and then lose them. This is not including other common costs like: classroom decorations, sanitary napkins, and snacks. I’m willing to pay these costs– I just don’t know for how long I’ll be able to do so and fear what it means for my students when I can’t any longer.

Read Part I here.


  1. Thomas, Sue, Keogh, Jayne, and Hay, Steve. “Discourses of the good parent in attributing school success.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 36, no. 4 (2015): 452-463
  2. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2020/2020076full.pdf
  3. Spera, Christopher, Wentzel, Kathryn, and Matto, Holly. “Parental Aspirations for Their Children’s Educational Attainment: Relations to Ethnicity, Parental Education, Children’s Academic Performance, and Parental Perceptions of School Climate.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 38 (2009): 1140-1152

What is education like now? Part I

Do you remember the day-to-day minutiae of your high school days? Do you remember all of the work you had to do? Or just the fun parts like relaxing with your friends and playing sports? Could you survive attending high school today? 

Kids these days still have fun in school (or at least they do in non-Covid times), but they have a lot of workload expectations heaped on them. In large numbers, students are failing or suffering from mental illness due to the high levels of expectation. It needs to stop. Kids (yes, even high schoolers) need to be kids. 

Why all the Stress? The current state of education as a nation

Some teachers and schools recognize the amount of stress placed on students by heavy workloads and are taking steps to correct it. Recently, some schools or school districts have stopped assigning homework. This is more common in the lower grades (Kindergarten through grade 8) and usually stops by high school. The thinking is that by high school, students need to start preparing for work/“the real world”. But in high school, they are experiencing new, real world scenarios and may still need to be sheltered. A student experiencing parental job loss and food insecurity is not likely to complete homework no matter the incentive or disincentive. But they are now facing two large, long-lasting negative scenarios–loss of grades/GPA and the insecurity. 

The importance placed on their GPA is mentally damaging. Colleges and whole college systems are no longer requiring standardized test scores as admissions components (1). But the colleges still need some criteria to weed out students less likely to succeed (2). Colleges want to maintain their image of exclusivity and elite status as it comes at a hefty price tag. According to a recent OpEd in The Street (3), colleges are giving more consideration to teacher recommendations and “signs of intellectual curiosity”. Intellectual curiosity? The problem with those measures is they are biased and vague at best. So, what do colleges use instead? High school GPA. In an era where 4.0 is no longer the highest GPA possible due to the Advanced Placement 5.0 scale (4), one failing or mediocre course grade can tank dreams of college admission. Though with Covid course grade changes (many classes went to a pass/fail grading system), GPA may not be accurate either. Even with the uncertainty, GPA rules in multiple-measure admissions.

Colleges, even nonselective ones, need to identify those individuals whose success is most likely, because that guarantees institutions a consistent revenue stream and increases retention rates, seen by some as an important measure of institutional quality.

-Meredith Frey. “What we know, are still getting wrong, and have yet to Learn about the relationships among the SAT, intelligence and achievement” (5)

Grades are not just important to individual students. Higher grades tend to be associated with higher standardized scores (5). In K-12 education, standardized tests are king. State and federal laws, like No Child Left Behind or Every Student Succeeds Act, make collection of student data (including test scores and graduation rates) mandatory (6). State funding is often tied to student success on data collection instruments (state-wide standardized tests) (7). Teachers have been fired or non-renewed for poor student performance on these tests (8). So while teachers and administrators want to be conscientious of student needs, they can’t when the risk is too greatly tied to their own livelihood. After all, why abandon a teaching strategy that works for most of the students (assigning heavy workloads) for a new, untested strategy (assigning no homework)?

This is part one of a three-part series on the current state of education. Stay tuned for more!

  1. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2021/03/23/standardized-testing-poor-students-sat-benefit-identify-column/4800781001/
  2. Pascarella E.T., Cruce T., Umbach P.D., Wolniak G.C., Kuh G.D., Carini R.M., Hayek J.C., Gonyea R.M., Zhao C. Institutional selectivity and good practices in undergraduate education: How strong is the link? J. High. Educ. 2006;77:251–285. doi: 10.1353/jhe.2006.0016
  3. https://www.thestreet.com/mishtalk/economics/colleges-dump-the-sat-the-new-admission-standard-is-intellectual-curiosity
  4. https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/about-ap-scores
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6963451/
  6. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2021/02/25/standardized-tests-virtual-students-school-funding/4553471001/
  7. https://www.theedadvocate.org/understanding-federal-funding-part-ii-knowing-consequences-federal-funding/
  8. https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-02-08/does-using-high-stakes-tests-to-fire-teachers-improve-student-outcomes

3/25/21 UPDATE: After June 2021, College Board will officially stop offering SAT subject tests and the Essay.

Things Your High Schooler Said

High schoolers are funny.

But parents don’t often get to see their child’s humor. I get it– you’re tired (mentally, emotionally, physically). Every day, I get to see how high schoolers think and feel about their life. I want you to enjoy these interactions, too. Here are some funny things your child may have said:


On cloning

I’m going to clone you. I might already have your DNA. 


On prefixes

If something’s ridiculous for the first time, is it just “diculous”?


On being broke

I’m broke. I could give you monopoly money.


On old age

Twenty is so old. (said by a high school freshman)

Other hilarious student sayings:

Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly, Fourthly..

Hey, mom.

He’s like an off brand Ed Sheeran.

I remember a cheer we used to do: Porkchop, porkchop. Greasy, greasy. We’re gonna beat you. Easy, easy.

My pants are sticking to my legs. Why is life so hard?

(speaking about another teacher assigning seats to students) He needed to break up the iron curtain back there.

There’s a video on facebook like how do I get my armpit to tan? 

I didn’t know they [geese] were pregnant with eggs.

(After teacher getting a pixie haircut) Where’d all your hair go? 

My aunt looks like a potato when she tries to dress like a girl.

(9th grade Honors students after receiving a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, but no homework) But Miss, this is so much work.

Death swamp. Everything happens in a swamp (said by a student living in Florida)

That means Ms. XX was teaching you while she was in her mom’s stomach (guessing a substitute’s age)

My mom painted her eyebrows and I called her Frida (Kahlo). My dad showed her a picture and laughed with me.

I’d rather get shot than my heart broken. At least then I know the wound would heal.

(Speaking about Romeo). He is a simp.

Insult her! (speaking of throwing Shakespearean insults at the teacher)

Covid Brain Changes

Have you been walking into rooms and wondering what you are doing there? Have you forgotten the names of family members not in your Covid Pod? Are you forgetting due dates for important work projects? You’re not alone and this is our “new normal”. 

In case you missed the insightful article, “Late-Stage Pandemic is Messing with your Brain” by Ellen Cushing in The Atlantic, we are forgetting things we knew from before Covid. This is something you probably already knew– or could guess- from instances in your own personal life. The extent of the problem is beginning to materialize. Stress on the brain CHANGES your brain, specifically executive functioning, learning, and memory (Cushing, March 8, 2021). 

These changes become a significant problem when our livelihood relies on our memory and functioning as is the case for most students. Students in the K-12 setting are especially vulnerable as they do not have the skills necessary to work around these learning and memory lapses.

Some specific strategies that could help:

1.Get an agenda. Some prefer a digital agenda, while others prefer a physical one. It’s up to you on which one you will actually use, but I prefer a physical agenda as it allows me to add sticky notes and other “frills” or colored drawings to draw attention to information.

2.Write things down. The point of having an agenda is to actually use it. Additionally, keeping a journal of major life events could help memory associated with major events. The act of repeatedly stopping to reflect on a singular event may come naturally after the practice.

3.Prioritize by urgency. To help executive functioning, you should prioritize your tasks that need to be completed. You could use the Eisenhower Matrix to categorize tasks by importance. I create a small list of 3 things to do each new day. 

4.Take pictures. To help remember important life events, document the event through pictures or drawings (if you’re especially artistic). While you may not remember the event, they act as proof that the event actually happened. So feel free to take all those selfies!

Did I forget any strategies that need to be included? Let me know!

Why The RaTW?

The best discussion is an open discussion.

I am the creator of The Rhetoric and Teaching Witch. This is a place to discuss issues related to English, specifically writing, news, and teaching (though I will probably branch out as the need arises). While I am just one person, I want to share my viewpoints on these topics to facilitate discussion.

Why read this blog specifically? While I am mid-career, I have a variety of experience not usually found in one person. I was an English Faculty and Coordinator of the Developmental English Program for five years at a college. Now, I teach English to students with disabilities in a high school. I’ve seen the experiences, abilities, and concerns of students at multiple educational levels.

What topics will not be discussed? Motherhood or the English monarchy. While motherhood affects my teaching, and it’s a fallacy to believe it wouldn’t, this is not the space for those discussions. This is the place for All Things English, but discussions of the English monarchy are on other outlets. The discussions of power and social status could be interesting, but I am more focused on the nuance of language or teaching here.

What are potential next steps? I would like to learn video making/editing to include elements on this website. A mix modalities is always interesting.

I also hope to blog every two weeks at the least.

If you’re a fan of The Office, the title is a subtle reference to Kelly Kapoor’s business acumen.

So, welcome to my site. I hope to have thorough, open discussions on topics relevant to the English language, writing, or teaching. Stay safe and see you again soon!