Teachers: Should We Stand Up?

“Best beginning of a book ever”

That’s what I wrote in the left-hand margin over 20 years ago when I first read these words:

The human spirit glows from that small inner light of doubt whether we are right, while those who believe with complete certainty that they possess the right are dark inside and darken the world outside with cruelty, pain, and injustice.

It’s from the second page of Saul Alinsky’s classic, hard-core progressive activism guide-book, Rules For Radicals (1971).

Before this, at the top of page one, is a quote from the Old Testament Book of Job (7:1): The life of man upon earth is a warfare. I first read this about 5000 years ago.

For a long time I have associated these two ideas, along with a third. This is the “Iron Rule” of the Industrial Areas Foundation, a community organizing group founded by Alinsky: Never, never do for others what they can do for themselves.

Then add a little Bob Dylan:

You hurt the ones that I love best
And cover up the truth with lies
One day you’ll be in the ditch
Flies buzzin’ around your eyes
Blood on your saddle
Idiot wind
Blowing through the flowers on your tomb

If you take those four together, there isn’t much I would add to my philosophy or commentary on the current dogmatic spasticity of education reform.

So, class, how do these texts inform our thinking about education reform?

First of all, have you ever seen so many people who thought they were so right about something? Obama. Bill Gates. Michelle Rhee. And on down the line there are many, many high-profile, high-dollar individuals and organizations who have either zero or severely limited classroom experience who are absolutely sure that the low performance of poor kids with rotten home lives in dysfunctional, role-model-free neighborhoods can be fixed if teachers would just do what they are told. They just know it. Which is not to be confused with just really, really wanting it.

The persistent low-performance of this type of student, which remains unchanged after ten years of NCLB, has caused the Certain Ones to redouble their efforts to punish and proscribe when it comes to teachers. It is warfare. And all of the idiot winds are against teachers. “We have to get rid of bad teachers.” That just rolls off the tongue and nobody can disagree with it. Then whoever said it gets to decide what a good teacher is and how to measure it. What comes out on the other end of this decision process is inevitably messy, flawed, and covers up the truth with lies. As long as there is a rubric and a meeting about the rubric, the Certain Ones can safely cloak themselves in false objectivity and wash their hands as careers are destroyed.

And our unions are just silly. They are boxed in. Again, it is the Emotional Blackmail of Education (EBE). An industrial union makes no bones about the fact that it is working to maximize pay, benefits, safety, etc of its members. Government unions can work in much the same way.

The problem with teachers’ unions is that they are obligated to include the talking points of the district bosses in their own mission statements. “We seek to ensure the highest possible academic achievement of all children…blah, blah, blah.” And who gets to decide how to do that? Well, it’s not the union. That would be like if the UAW’s mission statement included something like “and above all we seek to ensure the greatest possible return to shareholders by reducing the labor costs of production.” When teachers unions really want to help teachers in a traditional union sort of way, it’s just too easy to say they are against kids. It’s like taking away somebody’s sword at a sword fight.

All of this unjustified pressure on teachers has led teachers to create illusions of the world we are expected to produce. The passing rate for my school just has to be what it has to be. It has been made clear in meetings that it has to be what it has to be. If all the teachers played it straight and failed everybody who deserved to fail the population of our school would probably double every three years because of the number of people who would be held back. As it stands, one must possess only the purest essence of dipshitery and sloth in order to fail a class at this school. It’s not exactly doing “for others what they can do for themselves”, but it’s close. Real close. It’s giving kids credit (literally) and recognition for something they have not actually done, but it could plausibly be imagined that they had done it if the lighting is just right.

And the most annoying thing is, as always, most really could do it if they would just get up off their asses and give it a go.

You hurt the ones that I love best
And cover up the truth with lies

This whole movement, especially the testing, is bad for students and it’s bad for teachers. And it is based in statistcal falsehoods and disingenuousness.

One day you’ll be in the ditch
Flies buzzin’ around your eyes
Blood on your saddle
Idiot wind
Blowing through the flowers on your tomb

It seems like it can’t last. The ideas are stupid and harmful. Sooner or later the money has to run out, the data will be irrefutable, or people will just stop becoming teachers. Meanwhile, I’d like to think there is more teachers can do to push back, but I’m not sure.

Mr. Teachbad

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56 Responses to Teachers: Should We Stand Up?

  1. Peg Nicholson says:

    There is a lot we can do. As Mother Jones said, “Don’t mourn, organize.” The Save Our Schools March and National Days of Action in Washington D.C. July 28-31, 2011 is a step in addressing these issues. We are working to change the dialogue on education and include teachers and parents. Please check out the website at http://www.saveourschoolsmarch.org. This is a movement, not just an event. Your candor is refreshing and I am always eager to see your posts. Despair cannot be an option, though.

  2. I booked a room for the rally in D.C. over two weeks ago because
    1) I’m going and
    2) Teachers from all around the country will be going too. Not all of us live within easy driving distance and hotel rooms may become scarce.

    Come July 29, I will be rested, ready and carrying a sign. Hope to see you there.

  3. That Music Teacher says:

    I can’t attend the organized march in DC, but I do complain loudly, to a lot of people, very often.

    Teachbad, I still would not be surprised at all if it turned out that you taught down the hall from me. Not at all surprised. Because you’re describing the school that I’m leaving this year.

  4. lkm says:

    A picture is worth much more than any words I could type. I subtitled this one “The future of American education reform? ‘Go hard or go home!’ ” Here’s the link: http://firstpeoplesofcanada.com/images/firstnations/teachers_guide/plains/buffalohunt4.jpg

  5. Ragua says:

    We were discussing something like this at work today. Our principal stated at a meeting today that she told the superintendent that teachers support (are gung-ho, in fact) the latest reform fad coming down the pike. We are contemplating a group letter to said superintendent to let him know that we do *not* support it, and that our principal is lying through her teeth.

    The big question is whether or not our union will protect us from retaliation once we take this stand.

  6. Donna Campbell says:

    Please, please read a 20-p. paper that Michael Fullan, my ed reform hero, presented in April 2011. It spells out clearly what is wrong about the policy drivers of reform that the Federal government has been using. It also helped me understand how our culture encourages those wrong-headed drivers. Nevertheless, Fullan’s framing of the issue helps me see how I can attempt to subvert those drivers in my state DOE role. It may trigger creative subversion among educators as well. When I’m feeling paranoid & imagining conspiracy, I wonder if the continued choosing of the “wrong” policy drivers is designed to destroy public schools, ensuring an adequate labor pool of “banana pickers” for the “banana republic” oligarchs. On the other hand, I’ve long thought that it is barriers (how tall is that U.S.-Mexico border wall?) that trigger creativity (how many ways can a wall be circumvented?). The current state of education requires the mantra: May creativity reign!

    • GG says:

      I have heard more than one teacher tell me they think these inane policies are part of a plan to show how privatizing education would be beneficial. Ruin public school education, and then it makes sense to the gullible public to demand privately run schools — and the gov’t is off the hook for footing the bill. So…while I’m not normally a conspiracy theorist, nothing would surprise me at this point.

  7. Donna Campbell says:

    Ooops, did I forget to include the link to his paper: http://www.michaelfullan.ca/home_articles/SeminarPaper204.pdf

  8. Hannah says:

    I think students are starting to push back. Some 8th graders in my school “opted out” of a standardized test they were given recently, by an outside organization that had selected us. Because the test was voluntary the students were given the option to “opt out.” Some left the room to “sit on the bench” and many others slept on their desks. When prompted by the test administrator to wake up and work they reminded her that they were not obligated to do it.

    These students had to miss their weekly special’s class to take this test. You can imagine how unhappy they were about that.

    Later in the day one of the students told me that she hated school, it was no fun and in particular was sick of the tests they had to take all year long. (ANETS, DCCAS, DCBAS).

  9. Sean says:

    When the state leg. first said they were going to cut massive amounts from public education here in Texas, we held a rally on the grounds of the state capitol in Austin. I am unsure how much how much good it did……There is such a mindset here that anyone who is involved in a protest is a communist. We have found more good going through parents and kids with our concerns.
    We are still having cuts in the education budget, but not to the extent that they were when the Leg. first met in Jan.
    BTW: The seniors pushed back this past week again the new EOC Physics Exam. Many had semester finals in the afternoon, and to avoid the 3 hour EOC, they had a ” morning virus.”

  10. Mr. Teachbad, Not only must we stand up, but also, we female teachers must practice peeing in that position in order to get our point across without wavering. Sincerely, Teaching Whore

    • Laffy1024 says:

      Why do need to learn to pee standing up? Most of the males on the “bored of education-let’s talk gardening and beach rentals” in MoCo sit to pee anyway.

  11. OlliOlli says:

    Kind of like the latest round of tests to whirlwind through Texas…why are you taking MY kids out of MY class before FINALS to sit for the end-of-course exam trials? You value education so much that it’s more important for some $800,000,000/yr corporation to get free test data rather than for me to teach.

    Screw that!!!!@

  12. Miss Crabtree says:

    If I learn to pee standing up, can I expect to become one of the good ole boys? No more sitting down on the job–hunh?

  13. crazedmummy says:

    You have time to pee? I’m pretty sure we could cram in another class period to cut out that sort of lollygagging. Slacker teachers and their time to pee. (“When I was a child we had good teachers who never had bodily functions and lived in the teachers’ lounge because they could not afford apartments.” You know, if your education was that good, you wouldn’t be talking crazy right now.)
    I do love the circular logic of defining all bad teachers as those whose students do not meet the arbitrary NCLB for the year. If it were real badness, you could identify and predict in advance, and … oh, sorry brought in some crazy science idea of objective data analysis. Do I feel better that the delusional really believe what they say? Not any more than it makes me feel better that people really, really believe that toads cause warts, or that poor people all deserve it, or that because you’re rich you must be smart. You know, if their education was that good, they wouldn’t be talking crazy right now.
    I am pretty confident that none of my knuckle draggers are about to embark on a career in brain surgery without some additional training or hoops to jump through. If one more misrepresentative diploma will keep a potential drug dealer on the straight and narrow, then I say have at it. Sadly, some of them have not yet explored their alternative careers by age 19, and have not yet learned that their education has not amounted to full literacy equivalent. Nobody has been unkind enough to fill them in. Who am I to tear down that curtain of illusion? The time to fix this is 5th grade: 12th grade is way too late. You know, if their education was that good, we wouldn’t be talking crazy right now.

    Just as an experiment that others may want to try: this year I did EXACTLY what I was told. Curriculum, pacing, delivery method. Jumped when told, salivated when bell rang, kept dangerous psychotics in room instead of sending them to the office… Resulting in a “cease and desist” order in March. Which I refused to do until they put that in writing too. I believe that next year’s instructions will be much more palatable. And since my students under-perform every year, they are no worse off than any other students in the district. The best thing that my daughter told me: “it doesn’t matter what you do mom, because nobody’s paying any attention to you anyway.”

    • gilda says:

      Sorry-5th grade is way too late. By 6th grade we have students who are so damaged that we have become happy when they aren’t even in school. There is NO “catching up” a 12 year old who hasn’t mastered the art of listening, engaging, and practicing whatever the academic subjust is. “School” as we know it is just not on their agenda. Many of them have learned to be helpless, and they are content to stay that way. It’s much easier than admitting they don’t have the faintest idea of how to read, write and compute at the level of an eight year old.
      And heaven forfend you should actually try to help them ease into that realization.

      • crazedmummy says:

        So by what age can we salvage? If ever. Sorry, I am unable to count in the US system, I was thinking 5th grade= about 10 years old. I recall being turned on to science in 3rd grade. Age 8 in England. Is that the end of change?
        What will happen to the system if we all start to be honest? Give real feedback to everyone. Fail the failures. Here in Mi there’s a requirement to pass Algebra 2 to graduate. I’d like to see the entire state with 25 graduates.(it would reduce those pesky college costs)
        I love to hoist things on their own petard.

  14. M.F.D. says:

    “There is NO “catching up” a 12 year old who hasn’t mastered the art of listening, engaging, and practicing whatever the academic subjust is.”

    Bullshit. No, you can’t save every 12 year old, but you can help many of them. There’s a lot of kids that just need a kick in the pants, or extra time for practice, or someone to believe in them, or someone to call their parents every night with postive words. I refuse to give up on any child. If you have such a defeatist attitude, then I’m glad you don’t teach at my school.

    • Miss Crabtree says:

      Gilda is not talking about those kids. Of course all kids can learn. Of course all kids can be helped. She is talking about the few where no connection can be made throughout an entire school year. No classwork. No parent conference. No spark of interest. No effort. Veteran teachers with lots of skill are stymied by the few kids each year who seem to care nothing at all about school, learning, progress, their future. We all care and we all believe but wishing will not make it so.

      • crazedmummy says:

        Oh they’re learning, like wild things. The question is, will they eat Max or will he tame the wild things? (how I miss my left leg, chewed off by the round stripy one with pointy fangs)
        C’mon guys, if we’re going to teachbad, let’s not get preachy, or we might as well go to any other sanctimonious pretentious blog. If we can’t plan on teaching bad, why bother?

    • gilda says:

      MFD–Your reality and mine are obviously very different. I thought that one of the purposes of blogs was to share feelings and perceptions, and yes indeedy, vent a bit. Don’t get your knickers in such a twist.

  15. Laffy1024 says:

    I’ve felt sort of rogue posting on a teacher’s site because I was the admin bitch (yeah the one in charge of fixing the -fill in the blank-machine and ordering and attendance and the hideous newsletter de week. i am however disgusted by the fantasy world of people who wouldn’t send their kids to their neighborhood public school deciding that it just has to be BAAAADDDD teachers that are causing the dumbing down of our nation. And yeah, I’ve had the minimal classroom experience of just getting the whatever age centers of the universe to just not touch each other or jump on each other, eat chalk, walk in another ones vomit-yeah mom sent the kid to school when he threw up in the car, put boogers on each others lunch, climb over the stall in the bathroom and pee on each other-his mother said she used “redirection” when he did something like this, throw tennis balls at a hornets nest ( after explaining why 3 times to the angel who’s ALLERGIC to freakin’ bees) etc. And god forbid you raise your voice. So yeah, just getting them to so called “heel’ would be a challenge. Add something that gasp! is teaching them without a video game theme and a nobel peace prize for doing it must be incomprehensible. Now I’m not for spanking or yanking them up (god knows thats what only seems to work for the parents, again home life-some parents think they send the kid to school, it’s your problem for seven hours. They ignore said angel at home and then it’s a screaming beat down for junior when moms gets “irritated”)-so how do the nice teachers get them to do anything? let me go out on a limb: You all need to pen a book (using pseudonyms of course) giving examples of a typical class and the “love to learn” or “thirsty mind” attitude these kids bring to class. I have some: FROM ANGEL TO A-HOLE WHENEVER THE BELL RINGS, MY PARENTS DON”T CARE IF I LEARN THIS SH*T, WHY SHOULD YOU?, MY MOM THINKS MICHELLE RHEE IS A SAINT, TEACHER, WHAT SUBJECTS DID ST. RHEE TEACH?, and the title I think says it all -WHY THE OBAMA KIDS GO TO SIDWELL,

    • crazedmummy says:

      Actually I have the secret to do all this and I’m not sharing it. I can’t even put it into practice in case someone steals the secret. (manic laughter and exit left)

  16. Opie says:

    OMG Laffy1024: What a rant! Stream of consciousness much? Far out, dude (or dudette). I really dig what you are saying.

    MFD: You must not be on this site much. Trust me. Gilda is nothin’ compared to other sh** we been throwing around. Get real. This is where we take out our frustrations just to survive. No one else is offended. No one else takes all of this too seriously. Lighten up. No one here needs or appreciates a lecture. Hell–we can get that at the next faculty meeting. Glad I’m not in your school. Heh-heh-heh!

    • laffy1024 says:

      Sorry, Opie, I just had to preface my opinion so as not to offend anyones philosophy. I’ve found that low level admins are kind of crapped on by the “heads” as it were, and then dismissed as uneducated and therefore unimportant by the teaching staff. I’ve done the 3 hr playground duty and been questioned by some teacher (usually the one’s who teach immersion or anything “accelerated”) about why I yelled across a soccer field at a kid to not touch the dead racoon. Still I sympathize with the teachers who haven’t given into the soul sucking political bandwagon “the fate of our children” has become.

      Should you stand up? Yes, but expose this whole “waiting for Superman ” crap for what it is-a political ploy used by those who have no real answers to appease the masses and garner a voting block. Slogan: SAVE THE COFFEE MUG WITH THE APPLE AND THE INSIPID QUOTE< SEND YOUR KID TO SCHOOL READY AND WILLING TO LEARN.

  17. ForReal says:

    Stand up? I am ready to just sit down…at another job. Spring time is both a blessing and a curse. I’m glad IT is almost over with, but every year I am pissed at myself for continuing a job that is more like an abusive relationship. “He said he was ‘sorry’ and it wouldn’t happen again”; but once again…they furloughed my ass, cut my pay, increased my contribution to the retirement plan & the medical insurance (which also increased both in co-pays & deductibles while decreasing coverage AGAIN!), jammed even MORE kids into my classroom, increased the number of before & after school meetings (to make up for the furloughed “work days” we “lost”). In addition to ALL this joy, I still have an administrator / former PE teacher who talks to the staff like we’re jerks. Maybe we are, no normal sane person would put up with this shit!

    • Sean says:

      Why are so administrators coaches? That’s the way it is in Texas…..I understand the so called discipline thinking, but when it comes to actual education, most have not a clue.

      • ForReal says:

        Aww, Sean, I’m a coach too! I have no desires to go into administration. I have a very low tolerance for bullshit and politics, not suited for a job that deals with both of those in super-sized portions. I do agree that many coaches don’t have much of a clue though, they usually become administrators.

  18. Final Girl says:

    I just had to comment (after stalking Mr. Teachbad for some time). If I weren’t already married…

    I’m 40. I’ve given my youth to this job and I am tired. I cannot fight anymore for myself. I am thankful to have a spouse with a career that can support us if we live very frugally (none of that pesky college required either). It isn’t easy but we are surviving after I quit my teaching job when we moved to a new area. And I think I will be able to reduce my psychiatric medication now that I am no longer teaching. Seriously.

    What I will do is stand up for the teachers my child has. They are incredibly important. I will be their allies and let them know it. I will let them (and their supervisors) know that they are appreciated.

    As for the next 25 years or so and what to do with my Mensa-member brain, I love animals and aspire to a job sweeping poop in the zoo or some other step up from my former career. Wish me luck.

    Mr. Teachbad and all you others who have the guts to stay and fight the good fight: you rock.

  19. Sean says:

    Coach, I didn’t mean anything ugly by it. You know, and I know there are coaches in the profession who can’t teach worth a damn. They were hired to win football games. There are good teaching coaches, we have a math teacher who is amazing, but because he is the head baseball coach, he is a pariah because he doesn’t coach football….Welcome to Texas. ( And he has taken our school to the UIL baseball regionals the last 4 years.)
    We have a joke in Texas…… Q:What do you call last year’s football coach who went 0-10?
    A:Asst. Principal

    • ForReal says:

      Not offended at all, I agree with you. LOL @ the joke, will have to use it in the next long ass meeting!

  20. Sean says:

    OKAY, here was my last official day at school……Graduation is tomorrow evening.

    Waited until my last school day to be my worst. Had to pull 3 from graduation for tearing up the school this past weekend… $2500 worth of damage. Were caught on camera, and wound up confessing.
    According to state law we had three choices. ( The school ‘s choices.)
    1. AEP ( In school suspension)
    2. Expelled ( Would not graduate and would complete another year in school.)
    3. Felony charges- Probably 6 months in a state jail
    We chose the in school suspension, which means they would pay for the damages and not get to walk. They will receive their diplomas at a later date.
    -Started at 7:25am this morning in Supt of School’s Office telling her what the high school faculty wanted.
    -Spent the next few hours discussing other options with the principal.
    -The afternoon was spent telling the boys, they do not get to walk. ( Tough to do.)
    -An hour later, was yelled at by an outraged dad. I yelled back.
    -A mother of another boy came and cried and yelled. I yelled back.
    -Both parents were upset grandma would not see the kids graduate.
    -All said and done, nothing changed. The boys are not walking.
    -Just think, I could have taken the day off.
    – I literally am sick physically. I am afraid to check my B/P.
    -Trust me, I have earned my retirement.

    • Utz, The Crab Chip says:

      Wow Sean, you actually handed down a punishment that stuck even after the parents yelled? Heres how it would’ve gone down where I am:
      Steps 1 – 6: unchanged
      Step 7: At the last minute some random VIP (board member, superintendent, etc.) steps in and says the boys CAN walk.
      Step 8: You are now the big mean bad man that didn’t want the boys to walk at graduation, but you are also shown to have no actual authority!

      Enjoy retirement!

  21. Not a Dog and Pony Show says:

    Nope. I’m not standing up.

    I’m done.

    Our contracts are due tomorrow and I just can’t sign it.

    I’m been looking for a job in the “real world” – anybody got any contacts?

  22. Mickey says:

    “It seems like it can’t last. The ideas are stupid and harmful. Sooner or later the money has to run out, the data will be irrefutable, or people will just stop becoming teachers.”

    Spot on. If the testing craze continues to grow and expand, like a primeval fungus, and our evaluations and job security become tied to test performance everywhere in this country, the number of teachers fired will begin to outnumber those who are hired, even in a recession. And I think that’s the plan. It’s all about dismantling public education, and so far, it seems to be working.

    • Hey Mickey

      As someone who’s been around the block a few times (a lot of times) I have seen “education initiatives” come and I’ve seen them go.

      Once upon a time, New Jersey teachers were given a mantra called “T & E” which meant “thorough and efficient.” That was (mumble) years ago. Whatever happened to that big push?

      Then came a welter of other new! innovative! blockbusting! ideas. Just like in the movie Time Machine, the fashions change but the essential mannekin in the shop window (or dummy, if you prefer) stays the same.

      Hold tight. This will go the way of all other initiatives — providing teachers hold strong and make sure that things *don’t* give in to the interests of big money/big powers that want to kill public education. Speak up. Resist. Sneak teach great ideas in between teaching for the test if you have too.

      The kids need us too much.

      • One of the latest trends is The Leader in Me stuff. I’m ignoring it at our school until it goes away. Thoreau teaches all we need to know about how to live–without the bullshit.

  23. Miss Crabtree says:

    Sean: Loved the AP joke. Spot on! What we need here is a series of admin jokes. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

  24. Miss Crabtree says:

    What do you call ten school administrators chained togther at the bottom of the ocean?

    A good start.

    Your turn,…

    • Sean says:

      Q: How do you know an administrator is lying?
      A: Their lips are moving.

      • Sean says:

        We have a board member who was a former football coach/ US History teacher. When we adopted next history texts, he chose his books because they had the fewest chapters. Less work for him and his players. ( True story.)

  25. Sean says:

    Well we couldn’t make it through graduation unscathed. Had three show up stoned out of their mind. My job to sober was to them up enough to make it through the ceremony. Did so without any trouble. In the middle of the letter “Rs” I slipped down the back passage, got in my vehicle and came home. There was other work to do, but I left it to the senior sponsors. I had enough.
    I AM RETIRED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-)

  26. crazedmummy says:

    I am sad about all the retirements. We will be missing a lot of history and knowledge. I just did a survey of “initiatives” in our district – about 30 in the last 15 years, and none of them have been cancelled (would it be too difficult to admit that they didn’t help?). It would have been impossible for us to find out that history without teachers with some seniority. New teachers don’t even see what’s going on, they are swimming for survival. After about 5 years you get to poke your head up above the water and survey where you are, and really begin to see who’s firing at you. Surprise! it’s the people who said they were there to help and support you.

  27. Miss Crabtree says:

    Left during the”R’s”. R = retirement. Have a good life.

    Like crazedmummy, I am also sad about all of the retirements. Many colleagues retiring before they actually intended to because they were unwilling or unable to stay with all of the crap rolling downhill at them. Too many VERY EFFECTIVE teachers gone before their time.

    • Sean says:

      I was wondering if anyone was going to pick-up on that one.

      Had a small retirement party at my church fellowship hall yesterday afternoon. Most of the people I invited were my age or older. They ALL were seriously thinking about retirement. I look for most to either go ahead and retire this summer or within the next 2 years. Several were going to retire when they had either the age or years of service, and they were just hanging on….

      • gilda says:

        Like you, I am leaving. In 9 and 1/3 days I am retiring. For the past 40 years, I have loved teaching. For the the past five years, I feel like I haven’t taught–except in those rare moments when I can actually make a connection with the kids that exists outside our pitifully paced souless curriculum. I’ve prepared kids for the dreaded tests, policed kids, halls, lockers, etc, and attended meetings so futile and stupid they made my ears bleed. I personally made a choice not to play by the new rules, so I’m leaving. I always enjoyed being subversive about district office nonsense, but until the last few years it never touched me personally. If you are a good teacher, you get left pretty much alone except for the admins wanting you to be on the building leadership teams and committees, mentor others, and any other time-sucking task that will help advance the new agenda of the day. We used to jokingly refer to all new initiiatives as the Whim of the Week, but they started coming at us so fast and in such mind-numbing detail that the humor was lost. I fully intended to teach another 3-5 years, but after this year’s nonsense from DC on down, I won’t. So I guess I have played directly into the ed reformers master plan–another experienced, committed, high $, professional out the door to be replaced by an eager young thing with the same enthusiam and lack of experience that I had 40 years ago. They win. I will live a better life on a daily basis.Sometimes the circle needs to be broken.

      • Sean says:

        gilda, I am not going to “kid you” as we say here in Eastern Texas, I cried Friday night as I came down the highway towards my home. I too had about another 5 years in me. ( My wife begs to differ, I have had some health problems directly related to teaching the last few years.)
        It’s just not teaching anymore. It’s a dog and pony show. The kids only care about the tests, the administrators only care about the tests, the politicians only care about the tests. NO ONE really wants to LEARN anything. I have taught civics, then government, then political science for the last 30 years. No one wants to learn the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the basics of our government. I generally register kids to vote when they turn 18, and for the first time I had numerous kids who were ” Just not interested” in the 5 minutes to fill out the card.
        Fellow teachers, ( I am always going to consider myself a teacher.) I really feel sorry for those of you “stuck” in the profession. Too young to retire, too old to change professions. I cry for you. We all see nothing good coming down the road for education.

  28. Ms. Kelly says:

    Like many others, I am strongly considering a move to another profession. I love my kids, and I love teaching. Still, the actual teaching I get to do is so rare, and the negative feedback from higher-ups so intense when I go off script that I am getting weary. Why should I have to fight the people who hired me to teach in order to teach? What benefit do the kids actually get from having a person who is most often begrudgingly offering them the test-prep course she has been compelled to give them, all the while wishing she could educate them?

  29. R. U. Insane? says:

    I’m a parent and an educator. At a parent information meeting at a large, heterogeneous, public high school, we were told that now the school was trying to make taking at least one AP course a requirement for graduation. Why? Because students who take AP courses are more likely to go to college. “What?” I asked the teacher who gave the presentation after the session. “Isn’t that because people who take AP are more interested in going to college than those who don’t?” “No.” he said. “Studies show that students who take AP are more likely to attend college than students who do not. And”, he added, ” students who never thought about taking an AP class, when they are encouraged to do so, are more likely to attend college.” “Hmm…”, I asked him, “isn’t that because the students who are encouraged to take AP are the students who attend class, and do the work? I’m sure the study doesn’t include those who hang out and smoke pot in the park across the street from school during the school day? Are you guys insane?” I asked.

    As it is, at this school, the AP courses are open entry – Anyone can take one. It does not depend on teacher recommendation, or grade point. This is so no unintentional discrimination (past or present) can deter students who might want to take AP from doing so. Open entry AP is not bad. But making an AP course a requirement? Hmmm… Are we setting up some kids for failure? Or just increasing opportunities?

    Seems to me it is this kind of circular thinking that gets loads of grant funding and little results? Then you can blame the lack of success on teachers discriminating against students based on …. (fill in the blank with your -ism).

    What do you folks think?

    • 20 years ago not every Tom, Dick or Harry took SATs. Now even special ed kids with limited ability and no intention of going to college take SATs. Result is lower scores all around. (must be the teachers’ faults for not teaching better)

      AP classes are going the same route. Anyone and everyone is encouraged to “go for” AP and the effects are obvious. Here’s a story in USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-02-04-1Aapscores04_ST_N.htm

      = Percentage of kids who pass AP test are lower.
      = Course content is watered down so everyone can at least pass the course.
      = Kids who would benefit from the challenge and rigor of real AP are held back to accomodate the kids who really don’t qualify. Opportunity is lost.

      The AP students in my school are great kids, but truth be told, none of them are the kind of scholars AP was originally designed for. If these kids ever sat in a *real* AP class, they’d be dumbfounded at the differences in scope and difficulty.

  30. icyhighs says:

    “The human spirit glows from that small inner light of doubt whether we are right, while those who believe with complete certainty that they possess the right are dark inside and darken the world outside with cruelty, pain, and injustice.”

    Not that I have a clue who Alinsky is but why does that sentence sound so grammatically incorrect? I could be wrong, but can someone confirm if ‘whether’ doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘if’ in that context please?

    • Ms. Kelly says:

      “Whether” can be used on its own to indicate “if.” It probably seems wrong, or at least inelegant, because we are accustomed to the correlative conjunction pair “whether … or,” and tend to see or hear the stand-alone “whether” much less often. But then I only act as a prescriptive grammarian from 8-4 for the awesome pay and respect it brings, so it’s entirely possible I simply erased a rule I found a little overly-precise from my memory.

  31. itsalltrue70 says:

    Brilliant posting. I have often said the same in terms of failing students. No one has the stomach for what needs to be done: set a high standard, stick to it, (which means failing masses of students) until people get the message that we will no longer socially promote you with the end result being a diploma. Administration pressures teachers to slide the slackers through because they want to see them gone and want their numbers up. Pathetic.

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