John Grisham once wrote that in order to not alienate his readers, he has to watch getting on a soapbox or pulpit about issues. My soapbox and pulpit moments are probably too frequent. So today, I let my thoughts gather here and hope I can stay quiet for a little while after this.
Recently I have felt a storm rising up. A storm within myself. Many of you who will be reading this, know where I come from. Until this year, I have been a passionate teacher whose ultimate goal was to inspire and motivate her students to not just become lovers of literature, but to become world changers. I was privy to many discussions within my classroom where topics of standing up for your belief was paramount. I encouraged my students daily to be rebels with a cause. I even modeled it a time or two when showing them what it meant to take a stand. I was okay with making a few waves to get my point across. I encouraged students to write letters to their superintendent or local officials. I allowed them to see me do the same. Each year as state testing approached I always became that rebel with a cause in my classroom. I wanted my students to know they were more than a test score. And not just that… but I wanted them to know that I passionately opposed what standardized testing creates. I’ve been among what it creates. Primarily, from my experience, it creates an unhealthy competition between colleagues. One teacher trying to out shine another teacher. It’s human nature. We all want to be the best. We all want to be a star. When teachers know that their students’ scores are going to be published, reviewed, and scrutinized, they’ll do a lot to make sure they aren’t embarrassed. Another reason I so boldly oppose these standardized tests is because what I’ve seen it do to students. Anxiety, stress, tears are all things I’ve witnessed coming from children. I have a second grader. She isn’t even in a testing grade yet, but she has already expressed anxiety over what she’s been told about upcoming tests. Students are being “prepared” for the test way before the test arrives these days. I also have seen that these tests do not accurately tell the story. The scores can be hugely misinterpreted and allow public perception that just isn’t real. I have seen entire groups of students show through class discussion and participation that they are highly intelligent, overly conscious of social issues, extremely analytical, unbelievably creative. However the test score showed they didn’t “grow” academically??? What??? Schools want great scores because of public perception. This has been my opinion for over a decade. I have been vocal about it for years.
Now on top of standardized testing, we have to deal with the plethora of information dealing with common core. My take on it was much different when I was teaching. It was new. I was reading and researching only from positive sources, the proponents. But then came new teacher evaluation talk…. and that’s when I became increasingly suspicious. I began researching on my own. I began reading everything I could, good and bad, about the issues. And although I firmly and confidently believe my team and my school was rising above every other school out there and holding tight to our beliefs in educating children through inspiration, encouragement, and motivation, I still feared what was to come. Because you see…. it was no longer about what my team was doing to inspire and motivate and encourage. It was more about teachers documenting and proving their worth. It was more about the final number on a bubble sheet. It just isn’t right. It fires me up, and it should you too. I’m not here to fight. I’m not bold and loud and obnoxious about my educational beliefs just because it’s in my nature to be that way. In fact, it’s in my nature to be the complete opposite. I’m withdrawn. I’m an introvert. I’m quiet. I’m shy. I HATE public speaking. But when faced with the issues of public school today, I become what I am not… that rebel with a cause.
Because I believe in what I say and do, I can’t apologize for my opinions. If I apologized, that would take away from my confidence that what I fight for is worth fighting for. I hope that you can appreciate where I come from. Mostly, I hope you understand that my bold opposition is completely separate from what I experienced as a teacher for over a decade. I am blessed to have had amazing and innovative leaders to work for and colleagues to work with. My challenge to you is to read, investigate, and take a stand on the issues that involve our most valuable assets, our children.
The following is copy and pasted from a blog post of a friend and former colleague. These sites are great resources to educate yourself on the issues.
American Education professor Diane Ravitch’s blog provides great links and analysis of ed policy teachers and their impact on our schools, teachers, students, and their families.
The Network for Public Education advocates for a strong public education system because it is essential to democracy.