Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Just Imagine....

Now that my students are finally done with standardized testing (at least until they take the Science MSAs next month), I cannot help but think about how schools should really run, where our priorities as schools should really be, and what kinds of teachers our students really need.

Imagine if you were working with really great teachers who did not blame the kids and who were working as hard as you are and together with you. Imagine if the principal came in your room and engaged the students around what you were teaching as you were teaching as way to show that he or she was really looking at what students were thinking and truly enjoying their thinking. Imagine that parent meetings were held in local churches and community centers. Imagine that kids were trusted by the teachers and administrators. Imagine that students had a voice in running the school. Imagine that students were held accountable for not being kind to one another.

Given the context of most troubled urban schools, I know it sounds like I am on another planet entirely, but if the race to the top and testing cannot make some of these things a reality within tough urban schools, then all the money, racing around, and pointless testing is not going to make one heck of a difference. Case in point -- a former classmate of mine taught in what was considered at the time one of the 10 worst schools in New York City. Some of what I described above existed in a few of her classrooms. Graduation rates, dropout rates, grades, test scores, and other data all indicated that the school was not serving students ... at all. 

Now that same school, which probably is not doing much better than it was 10 or 20 years ago, is probably churning out bad No Child Left Behind test scores. No surprise here. My point is that people knew that the school was not serving students, and nothing was done to change that harsh reality (Whether or not we choose to blame anyone specifically or the teacher unions here is a whole different discussion). The teachers who were doing great things every day in their classrooms were not lauded or appreciated; often, they were in hiding and in complete isolation within their four walls. The big change effort in this particular school was an expensive dropout prevention program that involved giving away TVs and stereos. Whoop-dee-do.

 National standards will not do it; neither will holding curriculums to state and/or national standards. We have done merit pay for teachers. We even fired all the teachers in Rhode Island for goodness sake. Testing, of course, suffocates us. We need skillful people, autonomy, free will, more time to plan, community connections, and skillful, empowering leadership, not stifling management.

But what else? What else does it take to fundamentally overthrow everything that is backwards about our educational system to fully serve our students who need it most?? And are we willing to take this step? I certainly hope so.

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