Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In Which I Broaden My Horizons

I'm the chapter leader of a very large school. As a consequence, people complain to me about everything. Why doesn't the faucet work in the ladies' room? How come the kid in my third row hasn't been suspended? Why can't you get us a new contract?

I muddle through as best I can, and I get a little better at it each year. I help everyone I can, and if I can't, I can usually find someone who can. But the questions this year are fundamentally different.

Where has the joy gone, they ask. I used to think it was a privilege to have this job and to be able to teach these kids. Now they give me reading lists of things neither I nor anyone in the known universe wants to read. You know, they don't want joy. They want rigor. Who the hell wakes up in the morning and wishes for rigor? Do people other than John King walk around wishing one another a rigorous day?

Teachers come to me and talk of their children. They used to love school. Now they pretend they're sick and don't even want to get out of bed. Should 8-year-old children be behaving like that? My daughter used to read every night. Now she does homework until ten or eleven o' clock and doesn't have time for that. My son can't understand the math in his book. I had to go to his school, pretend he had left something in his desk, and photograph every page of his math book on my iPad. Then I had to get someone to explain it to me so I could explain it to him.

Now administrators are complaining to me. This is unusual because my job is supposed to entail complaining to them. They ask what I'm going to do about it. My kid has given up. He demands to go out and play with his friends. I refuse until he finishes his homework, but rather than do so, he'll sit in his room motionless until bedtime.

My kid's teacher is teaching history by posting 5 million facts on the board. My kid's supposed to memorize them and regurgitate them for the test. This is what passes for high-level thinking under Common Core. Teachers are beaten down. Children are beaten down. And at forums across the state, John King and Merryl Tisch are shouted down. They say, "We hear you," and happily do the same thing. They don't need to worry because their kids go to private schools that don't treat children like this.

I have never seen so many people so dispirited and beaten down. I don't feel it for myself because I'm kind of fatalistic. I've had a good run, I still love what I do, and I am 100% positive I know better than Tisch, King or Gates what my students need. If they fire me for junk science, so be it. I'll get by.

But whatever they do, I will do everything in my power to get the truth out, and to make sure children and teachers who come after us don't have to suffer through such nonsense. King and Tisch can sit and pretend to listen today, tomorrow, or a hundred times more.

But those of us who care about education will not shut up, will not give up, will not give them one moment's peace until their agenda serves us and our children, rather than Gates, Walton, Broad, and all the other billionaires who wouldn't spit on us or our children if we were on fire.
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