Fundiementals returns on Monday. Continuing now with my Bible notes – Exodus Chapter 5 reminds me so much of teaching it’s scary. Deserves its own post.
“And Pharoah/Principal/Superintendent/Chancellor Myers said, “Your funds have been cut, and you shall have more children in each class, and each of you will have less help because there is no money for teacher’s aides. Yet you will be punished if your children do not succeed at the same rate as before.”
And the teachers cried out, “But how can we teach as effectively as before when we have more children and less help?”
And Pharoah Myers replied, “Nevertheless, you shall be punished if your students do not maintain and even increase their standardized test scores. And there will be no more free breakfast, for the city has decided that these freeloaders cannot take the well-earned money of the producers of society. And there will furthermore be no more Head Start program, for the same reason.”
And the teachers cried out, “But how can our students learn if they are fasting every day? And how can we make up the difference in our students’ knowledge base without the help of additional programming, when we are already teaching with more children and less help?
And Pharaoh Myers replied, “Nevertheless, you shall be punished if your students do not maintain and even increase their standardized test scores. You will lose funding, and there shall be no art class or music program or sports teams because we must concentrate on testing skills. And there shall be no recess because we must not waste time on play. Yet you must maintain the same level of order in your classrooms and increase your student’s test scores.”
And the teachers cried out, “But how can five year olds, who are developmentally, biologically programmed to learn through play, learn in this way that forces them to sit as adults for six hours at a time with no break? And how are they to learn how to manage social skills if they never get to interact with one another freely? Don’t we already have an epidemic of violence and bullying in our schools?”
And Principal Myers replied, “Nevertheless, there is no time for anything except reading and math and test scores. They will improve, you will improve them, or you will be punished.”
And the teachers replied, “But how can the children understand anything that they are reading about if they have had no exposure to anything in the books? How can we teach children to understand books that are about art and music and games and places and experiences that they have never, ever experienced? How can we accomplish this without enrichment programs and field trips?”
And Principal Myers replied, “Nevertheless, you will raise your student’s test scores and not make measly excuses. You will be punished when you fail.”
And the teachers replied, “May we at least use the lessons that we have practiced and perfected over our careers to help us raise our students’ scores?
And Pharaoh Myers replied, “No, you must use this new mandated curriculum, and your students’ scores will increase.”
And the teachers replied, “But we do not know this new curriculum. Wouldn’t our time be better spent individualizing our own methods to each of the many children in our classes, especially now that we have more children with less help and no enrichment?”
And Pharoah Myers replied, “No, you will use the mandated curriculum and learn it, and implement it without mistake, because it is teacher-proof, and the program will raise your students’ test scores. And if your students’ test scores are not raised by the program, you will be punished. The fault will be yours, not the program’s. And you will do this while I increase your paperwork load by 500% as you input ongoing test scores for data-driven instruction and monthly reports and flawless bulletin boards for when my inspectors come around to make sure that you are following all our instructions and increasing students’ test scores. “
And the teachers replied, “But why must we spend valuable classroom time administering weekly tests to kindergarteners, who can barely hold their pencils yet, and whose learning at this stage in brain development is not linear as with an older child?”
Pharaoh Myers replied, “Nevertheless, you will do this, and if you fail to bring up your students’ test scores, you will be punished.”
Yes, it was really that monotonous. And, at times, insane. And heartbreaking. And hopeless-feeling. For me, anyway. I actually didn’t realize how strongly I still felt about this, how overwhelmed and angry and embittered toward the ed system, until I read this passage on the same day that I had a meeting with a friend about some social justice work. And I broke down crying at the memory of the time when I used to care so much about helping children who needed a boost, who weren’t born with a head start, and how painful it was to go back into battle every single day against all these forces that were in place to make your job nigh-on impossible.
I’m not sure I ever really let myself feel the defeat before. It feels so dark and hopeless to know that any little light that you can give a child on any given day has only a slim chance of surviving the onslaught of crap that the child will face for the rest of the day, and you’re going to be starting from scratch again tomorrow, and nothing is ever going to get better, and you’ll always, at best, only be half a step ahead of the darkness threatening to bring you down. That’s how I felt anyway. A suburban teacher in a well-funded school with aides and a regularly renewed library and parents with ample time to volunteer might have a very different experience. Or not. At any rate, our public schools are not all created equal.