As a student pursuing a career in teaching, the Education program at McDaniel College provides us with practicum after practicum in order to prepare us for the real thing when we someday have our own classrooms.
The McDaniel Education program is carefully intertwined with Carroll County Schools and it has over 20 active relationships with a variety of elementary, middle, and high Schools. With such ties to Carroll County Public Schools, anything that affects them can have a direct affect on us.
According to the Carroll County Education Association, there are less than 20 days remaining until the Carroll County Board of County Commissioners declare the Education budget. The budget will once again be smaller compared to the prior year, as it has been declining this way for years. Why is this important you may ask?
Well, did you know that according to schooldigger.com, a website that makes it easy for members of the community to rate schools, Carroll County Public Schools was declared the third best school district in Maryland? In fact, it is one of the most praised school systems throughout the entire state.
Slowly this is going to change because where there are budget cuts, there is less money for resources and extra hands in the classroom. This will inevitably directly affect students in the Carroll County Public School system.
CCPS is known for its unique curriculum and its dedicated teachers. However, this could all be put in jeopardy. From previous budget cut experiences, the first thing schools do in order to accommodate budget cuts is to get rid of teaching assistants and members of the school community there to offer help in any way they can. This help is especially essential in elementary schools with large kindergarten classrooms, where little ones can be very hard to keep track of.
It is extremely difficult to try and really comprehend what a kindergarten class is like with an assistant, much less without one.
Just imagine this: you are a kindergarten teacher with 18 five-year-olds as your students. Some went to day care and learned some things early, while others have yet to learn the alphabet. Throughout the whole day you are required to cover language arts, math, science, and group work. Your job is to adjust your lesson plan to each student in order to help him or her understand the content on his or her individual level. You teach as much as you can, through all the interruptions, bathroom breaks, and behavior issues.
At the end the day when all of the students have left and it is time for you to go home, you pack your bag with all the papers you need to grade and bring your work home with you. This is your daily routine. This is potentially the chaotic daily life of a kindergarten teacher without an assistant.
It is a lot of work, and although teachers do it on their own in other districts and school systems, Carroll County Public Schools was rated number 3 for a reason. The assistants in kindergarten classrooms, among other things, are important factors that make CCPS exceptional.
So what exactly do kindergarten assistants do and how much time do they spend in the classroom?
Sandy Ebeling is a teaching assistant in a kindergarten classroom at Winfield Elementary. She has been a part of Carroll County Public Schools for over 10 years. When describing her job she says, “We are with the students 100% of the time. We re-teach what the teachers have taught, we work with students in groups, we monitor the students behavior, and keep them on task when the teacher is teaching a lesson. Basically, we are there for anything and everything”.
Amy Sharpnack, a full-time kindergarten teacher who has been teaching for over 30 years, has worked in Montgomery County Public Schools as well as Carroll County Public Schools. As a teacher who has handled both a classroom with and without an assistant, she says that there is an incredible difference.
Sharpnack points out that one of major things that will be affected in the classroom is the much needed group work. “You can’t have group work if you’re the only one available to lead it. And if you can’t have group work, how are you going to finish your entire lesson plan in just a day? How are you going to be able to work closely with children? It is the only way we can really actively see students up close and where they are with their learning,” she says.
The budget cuts will definitely not be pretty. So, why cut from Education you may ask? In an article from the Eldersburg Patch, Kym Byrnes interviews Superintendent Steve Guthrie. The article states that the budget cuts will help with a reduction in property taxes.
Byrnes explains, “a reduction in property taxes would mean cutting teacher positions, staff jobs and kindergarten assistant time” because Superintendent Steve Guthrie finds there is nowhere else to cut.
When asking Ebeling on the budget cuts and the commissioner’s statement she says, “I think its crap. They don’t understand what we do because they don’t walk in our shoes. And people might say ‘Oh, it’s just kindergarten’, but they don’t realize that it is a foundation. A foundation that will follow them, and if they struggle now, they will struggle in the future.”
So, how does this affect us? Well, as a person getting my training in an actual classroom, it would be useless to prepare in a classroom where extra hands are offered, only to someday be thrown into a classroom all by ourselves with a crowd of young kids! The current students at McDaniel would be unprepared and that is the last thing a teacher ever wants to be.
As a person in and out of the kindergarten classroom, I have personally seen just how much of a handful a kindergarten class can be. Kids come in with wide ranges of knowledge, and for some it is the first time they are able to interact with others their age.
Kindergarten is not just day care like some parents might see it. It is where the students learn their basics and build a foundation. It truly is an important time in their life. Having supportive teachers in the kindergarten classroom not only allows a student to build a strong foundation, but also a stable one. And that is what a kindergartener truly needs when advancing to first grade.
I have watched the assistants answer questions, motivate students, and direct students almost as much as the teacher themselves do in their classrooms. I believe they do so much for students and their schools, and it would be an absolute shame to see Carroll County lose them.
As a member of the community, I think it is important to support all the teachers and their assistants. These budget cuts should not affect the schools the way it has. In fact, there needs to be an increase in the budget for Carroll County Public Schools.
According to the Maryland State Education Association, in the past four years, Carroll County Public Schools has seen a budget cut of 17 million dollars! Instead of seeing another budget cut, members of the community want to see a 1% increase of the budget. It may be not be a huge step forward, but it is definitely not another step back.
Together we can let the Board of County Commissioners hear our voice.
How can you help? Below I have attached the website you can visit to make a difference. It is quite easy, too! All you have to do is go to the link, sign your name at the bottom of the letter that has conveniently already been set up for you, and send it away to the Board of County Commissioners. It may seem like nothing big, but it can definitely make a difference!
Support our education systems! It is what will help build our future generations.