I am an idealist. I really do believe that things will always work out for the best. Most of the time, that feeling does well for me. But, lately, I am finding it very hard to keep my idealism in education. As much as I believe that, someday, somehow, things will work out in the classroom, I am finding it very hard to believe that I will be around to see it.
Everyone always talks about cycles in education. If you don't like an idea, just wait a year or two and it will go away. If you love something and it is no longer the way to do things, just wait. But always, always, there was a feeling among my fellow teachers that what we do matters, that we can improve things. I don't feel it anymore.
This came in the mail yesterday.
That's my governor. I'm so proud. (Read dripping sarcasm). And I don't think that my governor is alone in his feelings.
Originally I was going to write a blog about how discouraged I am and how much I want to leave education. But I decided I needed a boost and maybe you do, too. So here are some things to remember. I am numbering them just for Paul Bogush and Dean Shareski. Thanks for the idea, Paul.
1. We teach children because we want children to love learning!
We teach reading so children will learn to love to read. Not so they can do well on the reading test. We want children to be excited to pick up the latest book and discuss it with their friends. We want them to not even hesitate to read a book to help them revamp their heating system or fix up an old car. We want them to pour over a travel guide before visiting a new place just to see what they shouldn't miss. If we can get them to that point, then who cares how they do on the tests?
2. We teach children because we want the world to be better!
If we keep our world small, their ideas will be small. If we only show our
children what they already see every day, we will never change the world. But if we show them what is across the street, down the road, in the next town, in the next country, across the ocean...we open up their world to bigger, greater ideas. How will they help make the world better when the only world they know is the one they see every day? How will they know what needs to be done? How will they know how many collaborators they can have if they only see the few in their own classroom?
3. We teach children because we love watching that spark of learning take place!
I have never, in all my years of teaching, heard a child gasp with excitement over a test prep time. I have never seen a child cheer when I said, "Take out your workbook." And I have never had a child forget it was lunch time while we were practicing for a test. But ask them to write to the governor to change the testing laws, and pencils fly. Ask them to research the problem with the rhinos in Africa and they stop watching the clock. Ask them to write a diary entry about their pretend trip to Oregon during the 1800s and they forget they have to go to the bathroom. I love lessons when, as soon as I say it is time to clean up, the line for the bathroom starts to form.
I have to believe that, if I teach my children to love to read and write and do math and explore and examine and research, then they will do well enough on the tests to have the governor leave me alone. And if they don't, then they were being tested on the wrong thing and I don't care.
My kids want to come in early each day, stay late in the afternoon, not stop working for lunch, ask if they can continue work at home, break the rules about walking while reading, talk during lessons with each other because the topic is too exciting to sit quietly, and demand that we skip our writing lesson for the day so we can continue working on our Tall Tale videos and scripts (You know...writing the scripts for our videos). And if all of that doesn't show that I am a competent teacher and my children are learning and being prepared for college and career, then I really don't belong in the classroom anymore.
What do you do to make it worthwhile to come to school each day? What more can you do?