Amid all the rancor about uncaring, unprofessional teachers, and the clamor for standards and accountability from people who, mostly, do not have measurable experience in the "trenches," it is perhaps useful to consider and reflect upon the untenable positions into which the best as well as the worst teachers are forced by the interests pushing "reform."
Via the Facebook page, Dump Duncan, here's a wonderfully expressive, perceptive, and ultimately frustrating letter from a frustrated teacher:
You want to hear something really stupid now? In my school, where I'm an elementary special ed teacher, I had a sit down meeting with a few administrators a ouple weeks ago and explain to them that the new state math module was just too damn hard and developmentally inappropriate for my class.
With IQs averaging in the low 70s in my room, kids were not going to be learning to multiply and divide in a two week time frame, at least not the way it's taught in these ridiculous modules.
I was told to teach it anyway, because otherwise the kids wouldn't be ready for the state test.
I said they won't pass the state test,they're two grade levels behind already in reading and writing and math, and in my nine years as a teacher of this population, less than five percent have ever been able to score at a proficient level. They tire out, they don't have the stamina for tests like this, etc. etc.
They subtly accused me of having low expectations for kids, which I told them is not true, I will teach them at the pace at which they can learn. What good is teaching a kid how to throw a spiral if he doesn't even know where the end zones are?
Then the conversation got even more bizarre. I said I wanted to modify my mid-unit and end of unit assessments to match what I'd actually taught the kids out of the modules (yeah, radical) and I was told no, I couldn't do that, because how else would anyone know what progress the kids were making toward the state test.
Stupid. I had already told them I was wasn't teaching every single lesson in the unit; I had to cut a lot so we could focus on what mattered most. They didn't care one bit about MY opinion of the students I was teaching every single day. It just doesn't matter anymore.
Reformers will sometimes acknowledge that, okay, some kids definitely learn slower than others ... but then do nothing about it. The conversation ends right there. With smirks and condescending grins and handshakes. Some of the stupidest conversations I've ever had in my life have happened in meetings at school...
> Bottom line, no matter what anybody tells you, teachers have been de-professionalized in America. The evidence is clear, the subject is closed, and the only question is how in the hell we're going to escape this fatalism that is setting in among teachers (and parents) that there is nothing to be done about it, so shut up and get back to work and stop making people feel uncomfortable and depressed.
Unfortunately, letters like this one do not ultimately help prevent discomfort and depression about the future of the schools, and NOT because of the teachers or their students.