Friday, January 28, 2011

What Can We Do?

In the entry before, a reader commented with "What can we do to help?" The simple answer is "I don't know, but I'm willing to try anything."

Today, my previous blog entry was shared on BlogHer's front page, as well as their Facebook and Twitter feeds. This, I think, is the first step. Sharing it. Getting the word out there. Putting a (virtual) face to the issues. You don't know me, but you can go back and read about my experiences in the classroom. I'm real. I have a pulse. I am a living and breathing teacher who is caught in this mess.

Before my own school was targeted for analysis and "improvement", the plight of teachers in similar situations just seemed like numbers. Statistics. Something that wouldn't, couldn't happen here. But then it did. It happened last year and I told myself that they'll get rid of this obviously flawed system. But they didn't. They did it again. And this time? This time it was my school.

This education reform, fueled by political agendas and promises of money, is spreading across the country. The school system is sick, but we're treating the flu with jewelry. It doesn't do anything. It doesn't help anyone. It's entirely inappropriate to think any of this is going to help anyone. Moreover, it's an incredible waste of funds to hire auditors to come in and "audit" a building that they've already made a decision about. As I said in my previous post, if the only issue the auditors could find was the test scores, then we just wasted an awful lot of money proving that.

Are there bad teachers? Yes. These witch hunts aren't going to find them. Parental involvement and efforts to increase authentic, relevant professional development will help weed out poor educators. Increasing the workload and stress on good educators just burns them out faster. The end of this audit made me consider something I had never thought of before. Maybe teaching wasn't for me.

However, that's not true. Teaching is for me. Teaching is what I live and breathe. This political side to education is what is not for me. I didn't become a teacher to jump through hoops and teach to tests. No, I became an educator to help students. I became an educator to better the lives of children. I became a teacher to improve our society for the better. I became  teacher to do good things, not constantly defend the good things I do.

Now that the knowledge of what this education reform is all about is out there, it's time to do something with that. I'm challenging you. Write to your legislators. Write to your media. Write in your blog. Tell people. Tell them that this is unacceptable. Tell them you don't want your child learning answers to a test. Tell them you want the future of our country learning to think for themselves. Tell them you want our children to learn to be functional, successful human beings. Tell them that testing and auditing is not the way to go. Tell them that while teachers are suffering, children are suffering more. I'll move on. I can find another job if I need to. My kids will not be able to recreate the knowledge they never gained because they were taught the tricks of answering multiple choice questions instead of how to analyze and appreciate a work of beauty. Tell them you're ready for that change that people have been promising.

They can't ignore all of us.

1 comment:

  1. "Teaching is for me. Teaching is what I live and breathe. This political side to education is what is not for me. I didn't become a teacher to jump through hoops and teach to tests. No, I became an educator to help students. I became an educator to better the lives of children. I became a teacher to improve our society for the better. I became teacher to do good things, not constantly defend the good things I do."

    Your on-the-money quote from this blog post is almost verbatim what I voiced to my co-workers after a teacher's meeting yesterday. We were told that after we had a visit from QATs (quality assessment teams) a couple of months ago, we were the worst elementary school in our county at posting state standards and the daily essential questions. Read: we are the worst school. The QATs are comprised of varying levels of educators and administrators, which means I'm just as likely to get a visit from a primary school principal as a 12th grade European history teacher. They enter your classroom in suits and polished shoes, proudly bearing clipboards and blank check-off sheets. They jot down a few notes about the lesson they witness (that is, if they walk in during a lesson--God forbid it be during a spelling test or something assessment-based), check off what is hanging on your walls, and then give your "ideas" for how you can make your lesson better. What the crap does a European history teacher know about the level of education I teach (5th) that I don't? AND, if I don't post the state standards, or if I happen to forget to change the essential question, or if there's an emergency substitute in my room when these QATs come by my classroom on one of their visits (which only lasts 15 minutes), I'm automatically pinned for being a terrible teacher? I got into this business because it is my passion to impart knowledge to young minds. My students are the reason I get out of bed, ready to fill their noggins with rich, applicable information. I stay after hours to tutor them. I grade their work until 11:00 at night so I can give them the feedback they need. Putting on a dog and pony show for a bunch of grown-ups so they can run and tell Mommy? Yeah, I don't get paid enough to kiss butt. The witch hunt is so grossly out of control that we're hunting our own kind. I started this career wide-eyed and ready to save the world. Now I'm feeling jaded and worried I won't make it to retirement…

    Thanks for keeping an amazing blog. Very refreshing to see other educators with the same perspective.

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