Skip to main content

What I Want People To Know

I was talking to a friend the other day and trying to figure out why I am keeping up this blog. Part of me wants to show off my kids, how cute they are, what funny things they say. Part of me wants people to know what I'm going through with my ridiculous, dysfunctional district. But if that's all it is, I don't think I'd continue writing - I have a lot of other things that should be taking up my time. I think my main hope is that people will read this and understand that things are not OK in education in California. And more than that, I want people to get MAD about it.

Most of this is detailed in previous entries, but there is severe inequality in our schools. If you (or anyone else!) doesn't believe me, read my blog, read Jonathan Kozol's books, come visit my school. The inequality is so entrenched that I honestly have no idea what can be done about it at this point, but I do know that nothing that has been done is working.

No Child Left Behind isn't working. I'm willing to bet that politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, have no idea what daily life is like for children or teachers in these low-performing or "failing" schools. If they did, no one would be suggesting ridiculous strategies, like imposing "sanctions" against schools that are not making progress on the tests. "Sanctions" is not my word - it is the official word used - our sanctions were having our teachers' aides taken away - obviously punishment isn't a successful motivator because we're still a "failing" school. Iraq, North Korea, Cuba, and the children of East Oakland - all the beneficiaries of sanctions by the U.S. government.

"Accountability" isn't working - at least not when accountability means tests, tests, and more tests. Does no one realize that never-ending tests do not motivate students, but do the exact opposite? I have had students cry, scream, throw tests, refuse to take them, throw up... It's hard to explain how heartbreaking it is to see a child - who loves to learn, who loves science and reading and mystery and adventure and computers and her teacher and her class pet and doing well and feeling smart - to see this child put her head down on the test and sob and say, "I'm just too stupid, I'll never pass all these tests." And for me to have to say, "Please don't get the test wet - I have to turn it in?"

I'm doing what I can about the tests. I tell the kids that no one should have to take this many tests, that school should be about learning with occasional tests, not testing with occasional learning. I tell them that the people who make these tests don't know how to make tests, because if they did, there wouldn't be questions that haven't been covered in the curriculum yet. I tell them that the people writing the tests don't know kids so they don't know what to put on the third grade tests and they make it too hard. I tell them that as long as they are thinking and trying and learning and doing their best, I am proud of them and what their teacher thinks is more important than what people who don't know them think. I tell them that it is important to do their best, but that no test, EVER, should make them feel bad about themselves, and that if it does, they need to say, "You silly test, you can't make me feel bad! I'm more important than you'll ever be!"

But I'm fighting a losing battle. Last year I had to teach science secretly - yes, secretly - since I wasn't supposed to be teaching science. (It takes away from No Child Left Behind curriculum). Each year, more tests are added and more pressure is put on us and the children to achieve. And no matter where you go, the schools with more black and Latino students will be in worse areas, with less experienced teachers, less materials, less autonomy, and more ridiculous bureaucratic requirements.

I don't know how it will ever change. But maybe if people know how bad things are, they might begin to.


Jessamyn Harris said…
I'm forwarding this to my representatives (without your name, unless you want it). aren't they about to vote on this ridiculousness again???
Anonymous said…
OK, good.
You have come to the conclusion that you want people to know this? Then truly I would like to propagate this blog.

It's a great blog, saying things that people need to hear -- I think the mix of "Oh, look! my kids are so cute!" "Oh, look - this is SO WEIRD!" and "Oh, look - the system is broken!" is just right.

For what it's worth, I'm after data from our district on the amount of money we're losing for having sick kids stay home -- because what, we want them at school? -- to show that the schools are penalized for frustrations with public health issues because of the perversity of the formula. ($25/day per sick kid, I'm pretty sure.)
House Dreams said…
Jonathan Kozol was required reading when I was studying Early Childhood Education in the 1970's. He was so forward thinking and compassionate.

Now I teach young children in Special Day class. They are classified as Special Ed. I see them as "creative thinkers".

One consistent problem is arbitrary academic pressure. We are teaching using a model that is 200 years old: Sit still for 45 minutes while the teacher lectures. This is a new world compared to the colonial times!

When will educators be allowed to teach to this modern generation in a way they can understand?

Popular posts from this blog

Why Teachers are Afraid to Go Back

  Opening schools to in-person learning is an extremely emotionally charged topic right now for parents and teachers both, and for good reason. With almost half a million Americans dead of COVID and worries about mental health crises from isolation very serious, there seem to be no good answers. In fact, one of my students recently told me that “there are no good options. There are only less worse options.” If the science says it’s safe and the district has a plan, which where I live has been approved by our very conservative Alameda County Public Health Department, then why aren’t all teachers excited about going back?  As a former classroom teacher, I want to explain this. Hint: It’s not about the science. The first thing you learn as a teacher is that you won’t make enough money. We joke about needing a rich spouse or family money but it’s not actually funny, because it’s so often true, especially for beginning teachers. The reason I am no longer in the classroom is becaus

COVID in prison

 I have been a bit MIA because I broke my ankle on Thanksgiving (hiked back out two miles on a broken ankle!) and had surgery. So I forgot to worry that I hadn't heard from Jorge, my former student and co-author in prison, in a while. Turns out that I was right to worry, as he contracted COVID although seems to have made a full recovery. I got a letter from him today that he said I could share parts of. I'd like to highlight the very last paragraph. This young man was suffering from COVID, totally cut off from all his loved ones, scared and in prison, and he remembered to ask after my family and worry if we are feeling lonely. He is a remarkable person. ------------- Sorry for the late reply, there's been so much that's been going on since I got to this prison.... As you know, before quarantining when I got to this place for two weeks, I did it at SATF for two weeks also. So in total I quarantined for a month and my tests came back negative. After the two weeks here I g