0182: Why doing my “job” isn’t enough
#education #testing #teaching #SOSchat
I’m a teacher. I am required to prepare students for a test the neglects to recognize their humanity, and evens asks me to neglect their cognitive development. If I focus on the test, I’m doing my job. If I oppose the test, especially in a vocal manner, I am not only neglecting my “duties”, I am shirking my ethical obligations as a state employee. However, as a teacher I have a true ethical responsibility to engage (and enable) those in my care in learning and thoughtful reflection. My job is to increase and allow free thought and independence, but my “job” is defined by the narrowing curriculum before me that exists to prop up a huge industry.
If I do my “job” of training test taking automatons rather than teaching humans, even if I was doing my job, am I guilty of lending to the (intellectual, cultural, possibly spiritual) demise of a nation? Absolutely.
0061: Bad Teachers, Curators of Curiosity, and Delayers of Mutiny
#teaching #edreform #testing
This morning my dog reached on the table for the bacon that was his. I gave a sharp “angh” and then told him to sit. The bacon is expressly his, but I don’t want him gobbling it all up and then puking on the carpet. He’s a dog. A lovely dog, but a dog nonetheless. He needs limits. I need to enforce them.
That said, done, whatever— my reaction to my dog is not so far from the reaction we’re expected to give our students. It’s, in fact, our default reaction when we’re preparing for those all important tests. Some kid decides she wants to know a little more about this or that, maybe chase a rabbit that’s not included on the curriculum map. Out of fear or shock or insanity we quickly swat away her curiosity. “Angh, we must stay on topic”, “we have only 100 days until Armageddon, I mean the test.” I mean what if the principal or the state walked in and we were engaged in a discussion that was only loosely related to the curriculum, or God-forbid completely unrelated. Would I be a bad teacher? Would I be a curator of curiosity? Beauty is in the eye of him who hands me my paycheck, right?
When we quell curiosity like a brooding mutiny, we crush souls, and delay mutiny by the hour.
What harm is there in chasing rabbits?
0037: Ode to Standardization and Guerilla #Teaching
#humanity #edchat #testocracy #revolution
I spend a lot of time bitching about standardized tests. They’ve done a terrible thing to our society and our educational system. They’ve created students who think in terms of multiple choice and think no. 2 pencils are tools for performing strange religious ceremonies. They have turned teachers into prison wardens who speak only in terms of a, b, c, or d and the process of elimination. They’ve turned writing into the act of selecting the best passage with the fewest errors, rather than actually writing to find out what one thinks. Standardized tests are our keys into colleges, graduate schools, and many jobs. We all think in terms of a, b, c, and d. If you don’t then you are separate. You will never have access. You will be damned! Damned to what? A thoughtful and peaceful existence?
All of this is quite dystopian and chilling, but what can we do? We could all refuse to give them. Maybe no one shows up on testing day. No one. Or maybe teachers show up and students sit in the parking lots. Maybe someone breaks in and eliminates the tests. Guerilla test forces pop up in school districts across the country, and end corporate testing. It would be nice. But, what can we do as teachers who are chained to the assembly line?
I submit that we teach around the test. Let’s just take a year, and really teach. Teach your subject passionately throwing caution to the pacing guide. Teach at a pace where your students can really learn. On top of that, help them learn to think, and question, and reason. Present the test as a problem, for a problem-based learning activity. We, the class, have this monster of a test before us, that serves to dehumanized all of us. How can we beat it? Let that be the starting point. Standardized testing is a brutal reality of our budding society today. We have to find ways to interrupt the consequences of testing and teaching to the test while still meeting our impossible “quotas”. We’re working hard to cultivate people, not test takers. We have to help our kids transcend their scores of minimal, basic, proficient, and advanced and become real people with faces. Sure, pass the test, but, in our souls and hearts we must always say: fuck the test. I am not a score. I am a human.
0036: If you read this you’ll improve your test scores, and that’s it!
#testocracy #literacy #teaching
Telling students to read more because it will help the improve their standardized test scores is just plum stupid. It’s very clear that those scores are the central aim of public education. In the utopian world of god knows where reading is for enjoyment, or maybe to expand your knowledge, or maybe even to become more fully human. Now reading is for improving your standardized test scores. I’ll keep writing so you too can become a proficient person.
0032: The money’s not in the cure, it’s in the remediation workbook
#testocracy #teaching #testing #nervousbreakdown
I just watched a kid absolutely crumble because his reading scores are low. It took a while to get to that reasoning, he got incredibly belligerent before he crumbled. He told me to send him to the office. He tried to walk out. He was out of control— he was out of his normal element. He’s usually a smart ass, but generally delightful. I snapped at him because he wouldn’t sing with the class. He wouldn’t participate. I called him up and asked if we needed to call his mom. He said he didn’t care, and he didn’t care if I sent him to the office, or if I fucking failed him. I took his mother’s number down and waited until the end of class. Everyone left. I asked him to stay, and sing his part. He refused. He said, I’m just going to the office. I stopped him and asked if he’d prefer suspension over talking about it. And then this tough middle schooler, much taller and far more apt to play football than I, broke into the ugliest crying fit I’ve seen— crumpled chin, drool, and all. I asked him to breathe, and I if he was having a tough time. Through shallow breaths and spit bubbles he told me that his mom had fussed at him and taken all his privileges away. “Everything?” I asked. “Everything”.
He got a note sent home yesterday stating that he would have to attend after school tutoring because his reading scores were low, and he’s failing science. This prompted mom to remove all privileges. Mom is hard working person and wants her son to do well. She is reacting to the pressure, even she feels, from the great test. The test is some 5 months away. The kid feels like an absolute failure. He can no longer participate in extracurriculars, and he’s on edge. The pressure is too much. I asked what he was doing to improve his reading. He replied: we’re working in the workbook. It’s the answer I expected, but that’s no way to remedy a reading problem. How about guided reading or engaging in discourse about a text or teaching text structure or building his vocabulary. Really! And, to make all this even better the workbooks are provided by the state. State mandated corporately developed remediation workbooks— that are ineffective. The teacher’s hands are more or less tied, or she doesn’t understand that just because it’s in a book doesn’t mean it’s good. All I can say is, what the f**k?
0030: For the Love of Pete, Stop the Assembly Line! #teaching
Strikes have worked in the past as a means of making the assembly line a better place to work— higher pay, lunch breaks, better hours, enough money to buy all the nice things we rich teachers like to buy. The last I heard every teacher drives a Benz and eats every meal at 5 star restaurants. But our great wealth is not why I write. And in case some high authority comes across this post— we are not rich and can barely afford the basics. I digress. The assembly line does not need to be improved. It needs to be STOPPED and DISASSEMBLED. Our system is a relic from a past time, when the future was guaranteed, and Ford prevailed. We know all this. The system is going to take years to finally die out. So what can we, who are still on the line, do?
We certainly don’t want to just stop production. We want the little cogs that we put on the machine to do their part. We want the end product to be a critical thinking, critical consumer and producer to be the final product. We want to send forth independent thinkers who will become our neighbors and colleagues. But, all this is not the end result of the assembly line. The assembly line produces blindly consuming automatons— perfectly standardized in every way. So what do we do? I propose a rebellion of sorts. Teach your prescribed curriculum as a small part of your practice. Teach it within the framework of critical education. Perhaps the budding learners can spend time analyzing the shortcomings of the curriculum. Teach about testing as a means of oppression and segregation. When I was teaching algebra we did this. We learned algebra, and we learned social theory, and the reality of the problems of standardization. These kids were poor black kids in rural Mississippi, by the way. Every student I have taught has had a vague understanding of the injustice they experience everyday simply by attending school. They are never ignorant of inequality; they might not know how to express it, but they are acutely aware. Coursework should focus on the state objectives, of course. Kids should learn algebra, grammar, reading, social studies, and so forth. They should learn the Hell out of it. And, then they should have a healthy dose of social foundations of education. All this should all be combined into one huge think-tank you call your class. Social media should be taught anytime you get the chance, and the faces of school board members, politicians, and Arne Duncan should be shared so the kids will know whose asses to kick when they fully realize their own power. We, the teachers of the oppressed kids of America, must make these kids the most powerful people in the world. We must help them by allowing them to awaken and realize their own genius. It’s tough, and there will be headaches and Xanex, but for the love of our own futures we must stop the assembly line.
0021: Why Teach? Why not Rebel?
Why teach, when it seems like a constant battle? It is a constant battle for the teachers I’ve known, at least. And maybe it’s the for we teachers who teach in schools that serve at-risk kids, kids who have never quite received all of the equitable education to which they’re entitled. These teachers are under constant scrutiny from administrators who are looking down the barrel of their own job related problems, but the lack of empathy that often accompanies these situations makes the already struggling veteran teacher more vulnerable. This struggle to stay afloat seems to have come about through the corporate testocracy that now runs public schooling. It’s forcing a critical eye at teachers, which is a good thing at times, but it’s equally stripping teachers of the choice to teach. No longer are they showing up to work to motivate struggling learners to explore ideas and texts and mathematical theorems. Now they come as prison guards to enforce the dissemination of facts from ruling class textbooks so their once beloved students can perform on some corporate test. This forced testocracy breeds contempt for the teacher by the student, and certainly a reciprocal disdain from many teachers. In every level of power now their is contempt in public education. Each rung on the bureaucratic latter, from superintendent down to the lowliest of student there is an utterance on their lips: “That idiot wants me to do what?”.
This contempt is natural from students, teachers, and so forth. I dare say it’s a good thing. Contempt can serve as a catalyst for rebellion. Student “misbehavior” is certainly a powerful reaction to the boxes and cages they’ve been placed within. Equally, teacher eye rolling and failure to get around to certain things is the same. Students tend to be a bit more vocal in their rebellion. Rebellion is one of our greatest human abilities. True freedom has historically been maintained through constant rebellion against those who enforce constrictive regulations. Teachers, to not rebel, to not speak out, leaves you powerless and in direct violation of your own goal to teach. To really teach is to help steer individuals toward their truest and fullest humanity. Those moments of realization in students’ eyes make the job and all it’s problems worth it.
How can teachers rebel in this surveillance society that is called public education? First, we must all fight to keep our sanity. That means putting your mental health first and being honest with ourselves. We must be authentic human beings, fallible, and caring if we are going to ever even begin reaching the calloused rabble that is our students. Our students have been disheartened and they certainly are untrusting—with good reason too. Second, we must make sure to teach and nurture those little sparks of curiosity we see in our students. That means chasing rabbits, getting off topic, Hell, maybe even cutting up/cracking jokes and the like from time to time. We have to be human, and approachable. Next, we must cue our students into what is actually happening. Kids are being separated by test scores. There is no benevolent motivation behind standardized testing, maybe somewhere, but it has been lost in the cloud of greed that surrounds them. And, it may seem counterintuitive to let students know your disdain for the test, but they already know you hate it. Why not become allies? You are, by teaching the students how to beat the test, teaching them that our current is a testocracy, and it must be manipulated like any other system. Those who hold the power are those who can survive and thrive within and around unfair and ridiculous systems. We must help those in our care transcend the tomfoolery that is at hand. We must do the same.