I don't have anywhere to put this, so here is goes, I've decided it's time to throw in the towel on my public school teaching career. I'm not cut out for this job anymore.
Today I was informed that the Superintendent, of the county I teach for, has declared that using crayons after Kindergarten is not supported. I can't direct quote because I didn't write it down, I was quite distraught after hearing these words, but I can paraphrase. His statement went something like this, 'Every time I see a child drawing a picture in response to a book they've read [over the summer] I cringe. Crayons should not be used past Kindergarten.' A part of me died upon hearing those words, a part of me saw red, and another part of me felt so defeated that I drove home in tears. These were not the first tears I've shed this year. Can I add quickly that we are only in the third week of school. I've cried almost every day that I have left my classroom. I thought my tears would be over leaving Little Miss at home, but that is not the case. I am teaching in a county where we are dishing out a curriculum that is not developmentally appropriate for a majority of its students. I am teaching in a county where the message is, "It's not about you [teacher] it's about the kids." I am teaching in a county where the purpose of learning has become to score well on "The Test." I am teaching in a county where children, after Kindergarten, are not allowed to use crayons.
Let's start with the curriculum. There are plenty of articles on the web about Common Core and the havoc it is wreaking on our country. I'll admit, when it was first introduced I was kind of on board. I thought about my student teaching experience in Pennsylvania. I thought about how baffled my colleagues were at what was being taught in Maryland and not being taught in Pennsylvania. Clearly, having a common set of standards in education for our country is a good thing. It can only help address issues when a child moves from state to state, and hold educators accountable for making sure ABCs and 123s are taught. The county in MD that I work for had decided to create their own curriculum to address Common Core. I thought, "Thanks! This will save time in planning." Boy I couldn't be more wrong. I've found over the years that I have been teaching this curriculum I am left frustrated. I have students, 1st graders, breaking into tears because they just cannot grasp the concepts being thrown at them. Many of my students are still working on basic skills such as counting past 20 and reading books with more than two words per page, but instead of building on those foundational skills, I am forcing them to write essays. I'm frequently left asking myself, "When did I stop becoming the expert of my students?"
Now on to, "It's not about you [teacher] it's about the kids." If what I do and what I teach is about the kids, then it IS about me. I, the teacher, am the one that is in that classroom, with those kids, teaching the curriculum. If I'm feeling defeated, frustrated, and down right embarrassed at what I have to teach, then I can only imagine how my students are feeling. I make it a goal of mine to advocate for my student's learning on a daily basis, but who is advocating for me, the teacher? I want my students to leave my classroom feeling successful and motivated to come to school every day and continue their learning. I have many days where I know I have failed in that mission because I am not leaving feeling successful or motivated.
Next, "The Test." Since this school year has begun my colleagues and I have heard nothing but, "We need to get the kids prepared for "The Test." In fact, in a recent meeting, one of my colleagues informed us that we are prepping students for "The Test" starting in pre-K. For those of you who may not know, pre-K consists of 4 year olds beginning their educational career. Instead of working with those 4 year olds on appropriate social and emotional skills, and early learning skills such as their ABCs and 123s, we are beginning to prep them for "The Test." "The Test" which they will take when they are budding 3rd graders. That was another day I left work with tears in my eyes. Jeannie Fulbright reminds us, "If the purpose for learning is to score well on a test, we've lost sight of the real reason for learning." In recent decades "The Test" has become the driving force for what we do.
On to, the no crayons conundrum. The words I heard today were the straw that broke the camel's back. I have been struggling for the past year or so with the decision to stay in the teaching profession. Upon hearing these words I knew I was in the wrong place. In fact my teammate put it best when she said, "We are raping our children of their childhood." The county I work in has become so focused on the curriculum that they have forgotten what we are here to do. They have forgotten that our first goal as educators is to inspire. We are here to create positive social change. They have become so wrapped up in becoming "Groundbreaking" that they are beginning to fail their employees, and their students. They are creating a society of test takers instead if life makers.
Lastly, I have to add that while everything in me is screaming to leave, I simply can't. I can't leave my students to deal with this mess without me. I'm a good teacher. I don't say this to be smug. I say this to remind myself that I am a good teacher. That I am the expert in my classroom. That I am the one who knows what my students need best. That I am the one who cheers them on every day telling them that they can.
I know I'm not alone in this. Our nation is grappling with a toxic educational reform. We as educators are teaching in a time with unprecedented expectations. 20 years ago teachers were teaching in a time of unprecedented expectations, and I know 20 years from now the same will be true. I just hope those expectations will be ones that can actually help create that positive social change.