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“Democracy works best when we prepare students to be critical thinkers who are creative problem solvers and question authority–CCSS are preparing students to be obedient worker bees. Ask yourself why students at elite private schools aren’t being subjected to CCSS or PARCC testing? If these standards and tests are so essential to a great education, wealthy parents would be clamoring to have them for their own children. In fact, exactly the opposite is happening. CCSS and unfair, rigged exams like the PARCC are for the unwashed, undeserving poor and middle class.”
–Dr. Terri Reid-Schuster
PhD in developmental literacy
currently works as a reading specialist in Oregon, IL
The message today from school administrators to teachers is “we are always looking over your shoulder and you need to hit the mark every single minute of the day.” The message should be “we are here to support you as you experiment in your classroom. Keep it vital, new, creative and full of growth. Every class you teach will be different. Classes and students will even have different needs from the day before. Keep trying until you find what works for this class. Education is not a one size fits all endeavor.” This message of school being a “no mistakes” zone is passed along to the students. Real learning is messy. Let teachers and students engage in the process!
Goodreads is a website that has created a huge community of readers, and their goal is to hook up readers with books they will love. In browsing today, I came across their Jobs page. I’m not looking to come out of retirement, but I was interested in their values:
- Create Fun
- Be Humble
- Think Big
- Customer Obsession
- Be Passionate
- Help Each Other
- Always Be Learning, Always Be Teaching.
Goodreads says they want people that are creative and care about the customer. Reread their list of values. Are any of those items on a standardized test? Are any of those values part of the Common Core State Standards? Would they be integral to a private school education where neither the CCSS nor standardized testing is required? Then WHY are we not including them in a public school education? All of our kids deserve a first class education.
If you want to see the source, go to:
At the Vanderbilt University physics building there used to be a huge, several storied pendulum with a mesmerizing swing. I know about pendulums; I believe in the pendulum swing. Education philosophies, methods, and approaches go through full pendulum swings with regularity. I’ve both observed and read about the swings. For example, phonics was relegated to one end of the arc and whole language to the other end. In the middle, for a brief time, we get to experience teaching that makes sense. Some of us have always tried to maintain that focus, rather like keeping true North on a compass.
My latest posts have been reblogs of a few of the many outstanding posts about testing and opting out. I have interrupted my blog posts “I Am That Teacher Too” (Letters to Former Students) because of what is currently happening in education. It is that important. I have waited for it. I have hoped for it. I have prayed for it. The pendulum is starting to swing back towards the middle. I know it is a small movement, but it is movement, and compared to the recent years of intransigence, this is a big thing. The catalyst was the actual testing. For every force there is an opposite and equal reaction. When the force of testing was applied, brave parents and students reacted and said “NO!” They said “no” not just once, but over and over again and in many states. For the first time in years, I have real hope that future generations of students and teachers will not have to endure CCSS and over-testing. I have real hope that joy and creativity will be restored to the learning process.
Dear Former Students,
What do I hope you remember about me?
Our Special Learning Space
I hope you remember our room. Bright, colorful, creative, inspirational. Most years, our room and our studies focused on a theme which varied from year to year. It might have been dinosaurs or space or animals. Maybe you were with me when we explored the rainforest. Whatever the topic, it was real; it didn’t just provide decorations. It was the springboard for learning—reading, math, language, science, social studies, art and music. We did it all centered around our theme. Sometimes we jumped outside the theme and that was OK. Creativity, learning, and children—none of them belong in a box.
I spent the summer vacation dreaming, planning, and creating for our learning base for the coming year. Until the Testing Monster emerged to swallow up the joy and adventure of learning. After that I spent summers investigating Common Core State Standards. I learned that first graders should be ready to do what had always been expected of second graders. I learned that a Kindergartener was a failure if he or she was not reading by the end of the year. I had nightmares of angry administrators and nonsense posters and charts. I tried to make sense of a disjointed melange, a mishmash of portions of reading programs, books, and plans stuck together by an “expert” to create a hideous and unworkable mess. BUT even then, I tried to create a warm and welcoming place to learn with a fun reading corner and an area for some messy art and forbidden science.
I know you must have felt my efforts. You would come into the room before school (and again at lunch) when you should have been on the playground.
You wanted to put your things away.
You wanted to say hello, to find out what we were going to be doing that day, not from the required posted chart, but from your teacher who had big plans for you.
You wanted to be reassured that despite your problems at home, you were safe at school and could have a good day.
Then after a hug or a smile or a moment to chat, I shooed you outside and we were both happy and ready to begin the adventure.
I have an enviable viewpoint: I am retired after 34 years as an educator. I loved being in the classroom, but then I received an incredible opportunity to work with the entire student body. I spent 14 years as a computer lab teacher. That job began as the ultimate in creativity and technology curriculum development and disintegrated into the role of babysitter so teachers could attend their Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings and the role of proctor for the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) exams. Then I ($$$$$) was replaced by an assistant ($) and offered a job in the classroom again. The enviable part is that I only put in three years as a classroom teacher during the current epoch of Testing and Tears. At that point, I had more than enough time in the system to say, “I will not do this to kids or to myself anymore.” I walked away at the end of the school year. Since I am blogging about education issues, it is obvious I have not stopped caring.
I recently read a blog post written by a colleague who teaches reading to sixth graders in New York state. She has to teach using modules aligned with CCSS and to subject her students yearly to the NYS high stakes test. Those tests sound comparable to the PARCC exams. Her post “I Am That Teacher” (https://standingupforthefuture.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/I-am-that-teacher/) describes how she wants to be thought of by her students as “that teacher.” Her post is the inspiration for my thoughts on how I hope my students remember me and my time with them. I will be writing from an Early Childhood perspective with a touch of PreK-6th grade computer instruction. I will be addressing my thoughts to my students as I used to do in a daily letter to them, but I hope that current teachers will get some ideas of what a classroom can be like without CCSS. Perhaps, if you are a renegade, you will feel support as you try to sneak in real instruction. Hats off to the blogger of STANDINGUPFORTHEFUTURE! You are a kindred spirit, and I know your students will remember you with smiles.
The information I want to share is much too long for one blog post, so I have divided it into sections (letters). I hope you will follow me and return to read these letters. Also, I encourage you to read the original post of “I Am That Teacher” for more inspiration.
I just finished reading Anne of Avonlea in which Anne (of Green Gables fame) becomes a teacher. At the age of 16. Teaching students she went to school with. She has been to school for teacher preparation. Before the year begins, she and two other first year teachers discuss their planned approaches to discipline and disagree on which method will be most effective. Anne’s plan works in general, but she has to deviate for a student who just doesn’t fit the mold.
As her second year of teaching begins, the author, L.M. Montgomery, says “School opened and Anne returned to her work, with fewer theories but considerably more experience.” As soon as I read that line, I knew that L.M. Montgomery must have had teaching experience. She had. Her statement reflects the importance of opportunities to explore and try out new things in the classroom. Certainly for the first year, but also for every year after that. Every class of students is different. Even if you take the same class and loop grade levels with them, there will be differences. And not just because there will be a few students who are new, but because life has happened to these students during the year, they are a year older, and the curriculum and expectations have changed. Every class is different. Every teacher needs the professional and academic freedom to try out new variations every year. Is this experimentation going to happen with CCSS and excessive testing? Is this experimentation going to happen with the evaluation of teachers based on test scores, teachers marching lockstep with their grade level colleagues, or with administrators scripting manically on iPads while missing the important things that are happening in the classroom?
Another issue that arises from “fewer theories but considerably more experience” is that our policy makers have lots of theories but little or no teaching experience. Current teachers should be included in the decision-making process. Instead they are disrespectfully treated as incompetents. Teachers and children are being set up for failure. We must fight back for academic freedom accompanied by a healthy dose of creativity.
January can be an exciting time for teachers. We all know the rush that comes at the first of the school year as you and your students start with a clean slate. There are so many possibilities for great things. Jumping into the new calendar year can be almost the same—except you don’t have to set up your classroom! Some of you are finishing up the first semester and others are already in the second semester. Everyone has a chance to rethink what you want to accomplish this semester and how you want to get there.
In the spirit of optimism, here are my wishes for all teachers in the new year:
1. I wish you opportunities for creativity each and every day.
Our job is to teach students how to think logically and to unleash their creativity. You, as a teacher, will have to think “outside the box” to make that happen. Creativity on the part of teachers and students is a huge factor in satisfaction with the educational process.
2. I wish for you the respect that you as a professional educator deserve.
Respect can be shown in so many ways. It is the administrator freeing teachers to do what they think is best for their students in their classroom. Respect is supporting teacher decisions regarding discipline, curriculum, and use of time. Respect is encouragement through positive interactions: the principal who pops in and leaves a thumbs up, specific note of praise rather than a “gotcha.”
3. I wish an abundance of patience in your encounters with students, parents, colleagues, and administrators and wisdom to know when to hold your tongue and when to stand up for what is right.
Unfortunately, speaking out about professional issues depends so much on the character of the administrator and the tone set by the district. There can be repercussions so choose your battles wisely and try to find ways to do what is best for kids when directives are oppositional to good educational practices.
May God bless you with a year that fulfills the hopes and promises of new beginnings for you and your students!