Monday, January 6, 2014

“I would love to teach but…”

“[Valerie Strauss] recently published a post with various answers to the question: How hard is teaching? Here is one response [she] received by e-mail from a veteran seventh-grade language arts teacher in Frederick, Maryland, who asked not to be identified because she fears retaliation at her school. In this piece [this teacher] describes students who don’t want to work, parents who want their children to have high grades no matter what, mindless curriculum and school reformers who insist on trying to quantify things that can’t be measured:

“…For a field that touts individuality and differentiation, we are forced to lump students together as we prepare all of these individuals for identical, common assessments. As a profession, we have become increasingly driven by meaningless data points and constant evaluation as opposed to discovery and knowledge.

“Originality, experimentation, academic liberty, teacher autonomy, and origination are being strangled in ill-advised efforts to ‘fix’ things that were never broken. If I must prove my worth and my students’ learning through the provision of a measurable set of objectives, then I have taught them nothing because things of value cannot be measured. Inventiveness, inquisitiveness, attitude, work ethic, passion, these things cannot be quantified to a meager data point in an endless table of scrutiny.

“I am paid to give out gold stars to everyone so that no one feels left out, to give everyone an A because they feel sad if they don’t have one. I take the perpetual, insane harassment from parents who insist that their child’s failings are solely my fault because I do not coddle them to the point of being unable to accept any sort of critique; if each student is not perfect and prepared for college and life by age twelve, then I must be wrong about the quality of their work. I lower my own standards so much that I have been thinking my grades were generous.

“After years of being harangued, I gave Bs to D-quality work, but that is never good enough. All I can do is field the various phone calls, meetings, and e-mails, to let myself be abused, slandered, spit at because that is my career, taking the fall for our country’s mistakes and skewed priorities. So if you want your child to get an education, then I’m afraid that as a teacher, I can’t help you, but feel free to stop by if you want a sticker and a C.

“I sample educator Kris Nielson when I say that: I would love to teach, but I refuse to be led by a top-down hierarchy that is completely detached from the classrooms for which it is supposed to be responsible. I cannot integrate any more information about how important it is to differentiate our instruction as we prepare our kids for tests that are anything but differentiated.

“In addition, I totally object and refuse to have my performance as an educator rely on ‘Domain 5.’ It is unfair, subjective, and does not reflect anything about the teaching practices of proven educators, rather it is one more vain piece of administrative busywork that I do not have time for.

“I would love to teach, but I will not spend another day under the expectations that I prepare every student for the increasing numbers of meaningless tests that take advantage of children for the sake of profit. I refuse to subject students to every ridiculous standardized test that the state and/or district thinks is important. I refuse to have my higher-level and deep thinking lessons disrupted by meaningless assessments (like the Global Scholars test) that do little more than increase stress among children and teachers, waste instructional time and resources, and attempt to guide young adolescents into narrow choices. 

It is counter-productive to watch my students slouch under the weight of a system that expects them to perform well on tests that do not measure their true abilities, only memorization and application, and therefore do not measure their readiness for the next grade level—much less life, career, or college.

“I would love to teach, but I will not spend another day wishing I had some time to plan my fantastic lessons because the county comes up with new and inventive ways to steal that time, under the guise of PLC meetings or whatever. I’ve seen successful PLC development. It doesn’t look like this. I’m far enough behind in my own work that I will not spend another day wondering what menial, administrative task I will hear that I forgot to do next.

“I would love to teach, but I will not spend another day in a district where my coworkers are both on autopilot and in survival mode. I am tired of hearing about the miracles my peers are expected to perform, and watching the districts do next to nothing to support or develop them. I haven’t seen real professional development since I got here. The development sessions I have seen are sloppy, shallow, and have no real means of evaluation or accountability. 

I cannot stand to watch my coworkers being treated like untrustworthy slackers through the overbearing policies of this state, although they are the hardest working and most overloaded people I know. It is gut-wrenching to watch my district’s leadership tell us about the bad news and horrific changes coming towards us, then watch them shrug incompetently, and then tell us to work harder. I would love to teach, but I’m tired of my increasing and troublesome physical symptoms that come from all this frustration, stress, and sadness.

“Finally, I would love to teach, but I’m truly angry that parents put so much stress, fear, and anticipation into their kids’ heads to achieve a meaningless numeric grade that is inconsequential to their future needs, especially since their children’s teachers are being cowed into meeting expectations and standards that are not conducive to their children’s futures.

“I quit because I’m tired of being part of the problem, and as only one soul in the river Styx, it is impossible for me to be part of the solution…”

For this Washington Post article, click here.

For 41 more articles on so-called “Education Reform,” please click on the “ed reform” tab under the masthead of this blog or scroll down and click on "ed reform" under the Taxonomy column.

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