An Open Letter to School

A picture of the engraving on the Benjamin Franklin statue by the back entrance into the high school. One of the three schools I’ve gone to in my thirteen years of school so far.
Photo by Abby Chapman

Dear My School Experience,

In just a month, my thirteen years of public schooling will be over. As a graduating senior, I’ve started to reflect on my years—not without the help from many senior surveys asking me to. There are many aspects of my schooling that could have been better, but overall my experience with Portland Public Schools (PPS) has been a decent one.

As a future teacher, I’m worried about the future of Franklin and other schools. PPS is an old district, but Portland is a quickly growing city. Seeing how fully stuffed and overstuffed hallways and classes are makes me wonder what will happen to class sizes. I sympathize with overwhelmed teachers and under-taught students. I’m invested in learning teaching methods—to figure out my own method—and essentially all evidence points towards smaller class sizes producing better educations. I have a personal distaste for the United States’ education systems, but I have hope in Portland, so I’d like to see a higher priority placed on smaller classes. When I finish college, I wish to go into a better teaching system—one I can be proud of.

As for under taught students, the Guaranteed Viable Curriculum used is not a working one. In this case when schools reach to provide “equal opportunity,” they don’t consider how a set curriculum actually worsens education and opportunities. “What we see is that [African American and Latino students] are not passing classes at a higher rate than white and Asian students,” said Elle Wilder, a PPS teacher of seven years. There’s a big achievement gap in American school systems, and PPS is no exception. The system definitely needs a lot of fixing.

As a bureaucracy, it is difficult to change things and communicate, and PPS is a large bureaucracy. I hope to see my schools stop leading “from the top down” with high up PPS officials and start taking to heart suggestions from teachers and students—the people who know most about day-to-day functioning of the school and will likely know what needs fixing.

Seeing the rebuilding of schools has been refreshing. I can appreciate the innovative ideas put into them to better teach future generations. Hopefully, with the recent teacher walkout on May 8, more public schools will issue their funding towards our teachers and important programs.

Although there are things that I wish were different, I’m not unhappy with my experience in my kindergarten through senior years. I hope you keep my insight, as a student, in mind for future changes. As for those who have tossed a survey my way, asking for my experience— hope this has been helpful.

Sincerely, A Hopeful Senior

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