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ANTI-POLITICAL

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Entering her 10th year in teaching this fall, Junior High School Teacher is starting to think about the future—i.e., does she see herself being a teacher for the next 10 years? On the pro side, she views teaching as “the most important contribution I’ve made so far in my life. … I’ve made a difference as a teacher.”

But there’s a major con: She feels she’s being worn down by the “political climate of teaching”—which, for her, primarily takes the form of mandated, one-size-fits all curricula:

Last year I threw out almost every thing I'd ever created to teach from [a prescribed textbook]. I kept to the schedule, even when it made no sense. I spent at least one class period a week on spelling, because that's the area administration decided upon which we would focus. More than halfway through the year, the English chair decided we would adopt the Sheri Henderson way of teaching writing, and we had no say in that decision. So, yet again, I threw out something (this time, something not even well-tried) for the newest "solution."

She goes on to lament the trend toward uniformity in education:

I think most people, at least most thinking people, agree that giving everyone the exact same education is not giving everyone a fair education, yet that's what's happening. This crap about being on the same page on the same day in every eighth grade classroom in the district is actually being given consideration.

One thing’s for sure: It would be a shame if politics and the associated top-down mandates drove a veteran teacher like JHS (and who knows how many others?) out of the profession she loves.

20 Comments

I agree it would be very sad if excellent teachers left the teaching field because of mandates from above. I fear that too many people equate standards with standardization. Certainly all students should be encouraged and expected to succeed. However, all students succeed in different ways. Different strategies will help different students achieve objectives. When we forget this we might as well forget education.

Andrew Pass
http://www.Pass-Ed.com/blogger.html

Wow really sad thought. I am a student in college finishing up my degree in teaching. I worry if this is a common thing in most school districts or is this school district she finds herself in just overbearing and not allowing the teachers to use the most appropriate teaching stratagy for their classroom environment

I am a future junior high math teacher. In two years I will have my own classroom and the "politics" side of teaching concerns me as well. As much as I want to abide by the district's guidlines, I want to be able to teach my classroom to their best learning ability. Each student learns differently and as teachers, we should do our best to teach to their ability. I hope that this teacher will choose to stay in the profession, its a great rewarding one!

This is a shame, and I'm sorry to hear that there are so many districts who mandate exactly how a teacher is to teach the curriculum. Our school is exactly the opposite and that too is causing me some concerns. Our district wants each child to be taught in the manner that will most benefit that student. I am a high school science teacher and in a day's time I usually have 120 students. The administration wants us to "reach every student" so that could potentially mean 120 different assignments. Not only are we to specialize our teaching we are then going to be required to keep a record of what we are doing different for each student. This sounds like a real paperwork nightmare to me.
Kim

Veteral teachers find ways to maneuver around mandates from above. Spelling once a week? Find a way to make it valuable and fun. Don't throw out those great lessons! Make them fit into the "day of the week" mandate. No one has the time to check up on you every day of the year. And teachers stay, administrators move up or out. I have been in the same high school 14 years, and have worked under five principals and countless asst. principals. The only thing that's important is doing what's right for students; that argument will usually trump all others. If not, wait a year, and a new regime will take over with a new host of teacher guidelines. In the final analysis, you only need to answer to yourself and your students.

Oops---I meant "veteran teachers."

I'm a veteran inner city high school teacher who just turned down prestigious positions. But I don't have to put up with the standardization. The younger teachers are intimidiated into the top down scripted approach, but I make sure that principals don't try it with me.

I collaborate, I encourage young teachers, I'm no prima donna (sp?, and I always seek compromise. But, my administrators know that I would fight to the end (probably of both their carrers and my own) if they try to micro-manage me. I don't want to sound combative, but the best defense is a willingness to fight like a mama bear for my kids. If they fire me, it would be frontpage news.

John

I'm a veteran inner city high school teacher who just turned down prestigious positions. But I don't have to put up with the standardization. The younger teachers are intimidiated into the top down scripted approach, but I make sure that principals don't try it with me.

I collaborate, I encourage young teachers, I'm no prima donna (sp?, and I always seek compromise. But, my administrators know that I would fight to the end (probably of both their carrers and my own) if they try to micro-manage me. I don't want to sound combative, but the best defense is a willingness to fight like a mama bear for my kids. If they fire me, it would be frontpage news.

John

"I think most people, at least most thinking people, agree that giving everyone the exact same education is not giving everyone a fair education." As a Boardmember, I guess my question would be what is fair then? The past practices of our educational system have produced a two to four year achievement gaps for children of color. Is that fair? Is education merely a place where children stay from age five until eighteen and it does not matter what happens to the student as long as teacher can teach what they think is best?

We need to have some accountability and consistency, so that's what state standards are supposed to do for us - guide us so that our goals and objectives are aligned. However, I like what Andrew Pass stated above, about not equating standards with standardization. We know that children (and adults) learn in different ways, so we need to teach with that in mind. If our district mandates cookie-cutter approaches to teaching, it makes it more difficult to differentiate our instruction to meet individual needs. There needs to be some flexibility. It seems that more and more districts are jumping on different bandwagons in hopes of improving test scores or closing learning gaps, without really looking at the whole picture. I hear veteran colleagues say that "this too shall pass"...and that a new bandwagon will come along. How about we just focus on Good Teaching/Best Practices and return our focus to the children we teach?
~ADB

Accountability, standards and educational goals are good for education. Assembly line instruction is bad for education. As teachers our job is to teach each student. To be able to meet each student's needs one must use differentiated instruction. This is accomplished by teachers who themself are life long learners keeping informed of best practices in their field.

Mike the Boardmember states that the "best practices of our educational system have produced a two to four year achievement gap for children of color." This is not so. Public education has not produced the achievement gap. There is a horrendously strong and direct link between poverty and the achievement gap. Public schools have made progress toward narrowing the gap, but public education alone cannot completely close the gap.

After many years in several different systems and working with several different administrators, I think the only solution is for all teachers across America to confront their union, their state board of education, their government leaders, the federal education department and let them know that is physically impossible for any teacher to teach every child in a classroom the same thing at the same amount of time and have every children learn and become proficient. It is also physically impossible to teach every child in a classroom individually at their rate and learning ability at the same time.
Active teachers surely know what is best taught, how, and when to the students in their classroom.
If not give the jobs to administration, support personnel and all other school employees.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the fact that kids get moved around a lot these days -- especially the ones who most need help. If every district/school/classroom is on a different topic and timetable, what chance do they have to keep up? (Not a rhetorical question.)

Close the door and teach, from your experience, the way you know kids can learn best.

Something to keep in mind: the field of education is always changing. Every few years a new philosphy becomes all the rage. In the '80's it was whole language, which was a fundamentally good approach to reading that became horribly misused and misunderstood. NCLB started partly as a reaction to it and similar poor teaching that resulted in underachievement. But it was instituted with the intention to punish and humilitate teachers while serving corporate business interests. I think there is a backlash developing against the strictures of NCLB, and in a few years, this era will be looked on as a medieval nightmare. So don't despair too much. This too shall pass.

hi,

We started a free site called teachade for teachers and I was wondering if you'd take a look to see what you think. Basically we're looking to build a community of teachers to support each other through professional development and resource exchange. We're looking for your input and suggestions on how to improve the site. Hope to see you join us and participate.

www.teachade.com

-Ben

[email protected]

hi,

We started a free site called teachade for teachers and I was wondering if you'd take a look to see what you think. Basically we're looking to build a community of teachers to support each other through professional development and resource exchange. We're looking for your input and suggestions on how to improve the site. Hope to see you join us and participate.

www.teachade.com

-Ben

[email protected]

I know what you mean about the testing...we do follow a pacing guide in our district as well. Each quarter there is a curriculum based test, and ev everyone in the district takes it about the same time. I do not like this schedule... does not allow time for slowing down and reteaching concepts not grasped by the students... I'm in my 8th year. Teaching doesn't wear you down, the system does, however. Bea
http://journals.aol.com/bgilmore725/Wanderer/

I'm a parent of an 11 year old boy. I'm a college professor. Tonight I went to my son's school open house. I practically got an ulcer listening to what they're putting children (my kid who I love!) through in terms of pressure and non-meaningful learning! I would have failed in this environment as a kid. This scripted standardized "education" is so obviously draconian and fascist. It is dehumanizing for the teachers as well as the students, and is run by people who don't think or question, just implement. And it is destroying in kids the curiosity to think and question. I wish more parents and teachers would rebel.

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