My last rant for 2012

Naughty-Charcoal-Funny-Christmas-Gift

Hold on, boys. This one’s gonna be bad. I’m on a rant, and there’s no stopping me. My only apology is that it comes on Christmas eve (even though the date posts as Christmas day).

I mean no disrespect, not to my employers nor to my co-workers. We’re all doing our jobs to the best of our abilities under conditions of which we have no control.

But I have decided on this day I am a conscientious dissenter. I do not endorse the current trend of data-driven education.

Before I get started, let me say that data does not scare me. I have always had exceptional test scores. My students have to work hard to fail my class, and I never curve grades. When my students leave my class, I’m confident they know how to write. When I don’t do a good job, I do my best to fix the situation. I don’t need a computer program to tell me if I am not doing my job. I know–I don’t like the way it feels. I am intrinsically motivated to do what is best for my students.

So what’s the problem with data-driven education?

It’s dangerous.

Why?

Data-driven education promotes competition—external competition, the need to beat others. And what’s wrong with that, you might ask? Let me give you a few reasons.

Let’s suppose there are teachers whose sole motivation is to promote themselves. Instead of doing what is best for the children, the teachers will more than likely endorse programs that look good on paper but create a disconnect between teacher and pupil.

If teachers’ jobs are based on test scores, how long will it be before teachers resort to cheating? Oh, say it isn’t so.

Don’t be naïve. Baseball players do it. Football players do it. Performance enhancing drugs help them keep atop the stats. No, I don’t expect teachers to take drugs—but if there were such a drug, I would have no doubt suppliers would make a pretty penny.

And if test scores are paramount, how long will it be before students resort to cheating? ACT? SAT? EOC? Core curriculum?

And drugs? Yeah, performance enhancing drugs are already out there. Kids take them to stay awake to cram. Just how many Red Bulls can one kid endure?

And let’s talk reality here. The purpose of our current education is to increase the AVERAGE and BELOW AVERAGE students’ abilities to perform well in science, technology, engineering, and math. Now we’re including language. My question is WHY?

Let’s suppose all the AVERAGE students get their degrees in engineering? Just how many jobs will be available for the average engineer? My bet is that the jobs will go to the OUTSTANDING candidates—as they should. Well, that is, IF there are any outstanding candidates left.

I am the mother of a child who was in the gifted program. I can’t think of anything above average the schools did to enhance his specific abilities. If our attention is focused on helping moderately motivated students score well, how will the highly motivated, exceptionally talented students get the assistance they need?

And if we’re talking reality here, let me add that there are some students who are quite content NOT going to college to major in something in which they have little interest, regardless of their test scores. I saw a former student in the Walmart checkout line yesterday. I’m pretty sure he is now working at a plant in town, probably making a lot more money than I am making as a teacher. And he and his three children looked very happy. He told me I made a difference in his life. You know what? I call that success–for both of us.

If my students do what they love, they will never have to work a day in their lives.

I do not support this data-driven regiment. It does not paint a picture of the truth. Just because students make advanced scores on a test does not mean they will enjoy, excel in, or even pursue a certain field.

The current trend in education is to make all teachers teach the same subject the same way and give the same test. Can you say cookie cutter curriculum? I feel as though the powers that be (beyond my district, of course) are trying to brainwash me to be assembly line worker.

Again, I respectfully disagree. I am not afraid I can’t knock the top off test scores. I’m afraid I will. I am very competitive, and I am tenacious.

But I don’t want to change. I like the way I teach NOW. It works. Teaching is NOT about me. It’s about the children.

THE CHILDREN.

If we continue with this data-driven trend, we are going to drive home the point that competition, the need to win, is paramount. The need to win teaches the importance of self. It teaches NOTHING about sacrifice.

Let me transition to the end of my rant by mentioning the names of two teachers: Anne Marie Murphy (52) and Victoria Soto (27).

These teachers are remembered NOT for their outstanding test scores but for their sacrificial love for their students.

Ms. Murphy’s body was found covering the bodies of her children as she tried to shield them during the Sandy Hook shooting. Ms. Soto hid her students in cabinets and faced certain death when she faced the gunman.

And you know what? You can check all the state manuals, but I’m willing to bet the teachers had to deviate from the day’s SPIs to instinctively do what was best for their children.

Producing high test scores does not scare me. However, having someone force me to change what I know is right deeply disturbs me.

I used to play softball. I did all right. When I moved to Murfreesboro, I had a coach who didn’t know much about pitching. I had been playing pitcher with older players ever since I was in junior high. This coach tried to get me to change, but instead, I respectfully and conscientiously found the rule book and proved he was wrong. He conceded. He had misinterpreted the rules.

Teachers and parents must step up and take back what is right. Our children are not protoplasmic bodies that are all alike. They are living, breathing souls with individual purposes.

Spending time getting to know individual students is worth the effort so that teachers can help them achieve their purpose. Sticking to the SPI every moment diminishes bonding time, and, thus, students become mere products on the assembly line.

Parents, do you really want your children to lose out on cutting out pumpkins in the fall, swapping Valentines, playing tag at recess, or eating too many cookies during the Christmas party just so teachers can prepare them for tests that will make or break the teachers’ individual careers?

These tests don’t really test the children–they test the teachers’ so-called effectiveness. There is no formula, however, to account for the students’ emotional or physical well-being on test day. Surely these factors do matter?

I know of a student who went straight from the ER to a test because he was afraid to miss it. Do you really think his test performance accurately portrayed the effectiveness of his teacher? Is that fair?

How about the child whose parents’ fought the night before the test? How about the child whose puppy was run over the morning of the test? How about the child who is so bored with testing that he would rather make pictures with the bubble sheets than focus on the test?

Parents, you KNOW the effectiveness of your child’s teacher. Do you really need a brochure at the end of the year to tell you if your child learned anything?

The special days that put standard SPIs on hold are often what motivate children to love school. Children who can’t read well sometimes are the best artists. They’re proud of what they CAN do when maybe they CAN’T test so well.

And never mind allowing the children the time to form social bonds. Already we have conditioned our children to interact almost exclusively through technology. Now we’re taking away the limited opportunities they have for real face time. Once children leave school, they go home to a TV, an iPod, a cell phone, or a video game. They don’t play with each other anymore, at least not in person.

I’m sure all of our students will eventually get the mediocre stamp of approval when it’s time to promote them to the next grade.

But what have we taught them? Have we helped them find what they love to do? Or will we have brainwashed them into preparing for a career they will hate?

What about the gifted auto repairman who has a knack for making engines purr? What about the artist who paints the next masterpiece? What about the musician who composes a song that brings comfort to a spouse who has just lost her husband of 50 years?

How will they find their gifts if no one gives them the opportunity to explore, to deviate from the imposed curriculum? Do we really want all of our children to be the same?

That’s it, folks. My rant. I guess I’m on Santa’s naughty list for sure. There will be a stocking of coal left for me. Or a pink slip.

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4 thoughts on “My last rant for 2012

  1. I am so in tune with what you’ve stated. Children must be allowed to be “individuals” instead of one in an identical group. I’m disturbed because there is no recess or art time for children. Thanks for your rant!

  2. In traditional classes we usually provide the answers. Art, music, and recess periods allow students time to think their own thoughts and deviate from the teacher’s box. I love learning from my students. I just think we need to leave room for spontaneous growth.

  3. My heart is heavy for all the teachers who are trying to actually teach and inspire learning. There are so many absurd requirements and contrived standards.

    “The purpose of our current education is to increase the AVERAGE and BELOW AVERAGE students’ abilities to perform well in science, technology, engineering, and math. Now we’re including language. My question is WHY?”

    When I was in school, I was always baffled by this type of narrow objective.

    Some people have no desire or drive to improve their education. Politicized achievement requirements force schools and individual teachers to expend so much time, energy, and other resources trying to make an unthirsty horse drink after tugging it to water.

    Like you said, some people excel in areas that are not being tested or do not perform well on standardized tests.

    Why ignore advanced students? So frustrating.

    • The really great teachers inspire. But there has to be some seed that has already been planted. The teacher will nurture it and watch it grow. Why ignore the passion children have for their calling to push them in a direction they don’t want to go?

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