Are you a parent? Taxpayer? Voter? Community member? Are you concerned? Should you be? Is your child’s teacher out of the classroom a lot? Has a sub, or in some cases doesn’t because there aren’t enough, because the teacher is in meetings or professional development sessions? Ever wonder about those meetings or the professional development? Does having your child’s teacher out of the classroom really improve the quality of instruction and education your child is receiving?
This should really be titled “News from Outside the Classroom by Someone Who Should be in the Classroom”. Most teachers will not speak out these days out of fear. This allows the proponents of Common Core State Standards to continue to say teachers like the standards. There are some teachers who are speaking out. I heard recently from a very frustrated teacher and thought I would share some of what she has to say. This is a veteran teacher who confided in me that she will soon be leaving the teaching profession. She says she can’t spend her days anymore worrying about data-driven decision instruction and how administering CCSS aligned tests every Friday affects her students and her job. This is the story this teacher shared with me:
It all started Tuesday. I was told to get a sub for Wed afternoon, as my team and I needed to be away from our students to do our “pacing guides that align to Common Core.” Pacing guides are what we are teaching, when and how for the next nine weeks. We are expected to teach the same thing the same way on the same day, because Common Core expects it. So, I had to scramble to find a quality sub for the next afternoon. The afternoon arrived (after I had to write detailed sub plans) and the three of us met in a corner in the LMC to write our pacing guide. We chose to write for math, since our math is CC aligned and our teacher manuals are very scripted. Not to mention the pacing guide is right there for us to use every day. It includes every piece of material we could need. While basically copying the pacing guide from the math teacher’s manual, I got angry. I thought this is the MOST ridiculous waste of time – the guide is already done and we already paid over $1M for the manuals, which include the guides. I was angry that we were taking more money by being away from our students (detrimental to student learning, too) and having subs (at the cost of $120/day, $90/half-day). As a financially responsible taxpayer, this did not sit well with me. I wonder what the general public would have thought?
Anyway, as we sat there rewriting what was already there, I got angry. Finally, I said enough was enough and went to the principal to ask her what in the world we were doing. She said she wanted us to do ELA, not math. I asked her again why? All our teacher’s manuals had the pacing guides in them, both math and ELA, and a team of district employees wrote a guide for us to use. Why were we doing this again?? She said so she knew we were following them, as written. We were to rewrite the ELA pacing guides according to how we understood them and how we, as a team, would be using them. I told her we would be using the guides as given in the $1M+ teacher’s manuals (of which we have six manuals, 4 assessment books, 1 blackline master book and 1 Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports book). She didn’t like my response and told me to go write with my team.
So, three hours later, we ended up with a 12-page pacing guide that we literally COPIED from the teacher’s manual assigned to that quarter. It was the biggest waste of time and money.
Through all this, I found out my colleagues are using the program as it’s written, whereas I was using the concepts to meet the standard but bringing in my own tried and true teaching techniques/materials. I was trying to maintain my art, they were following the script. As a side note, one of the teachers is a 25+ year veteran, the other is a first year teacher. I went to my principal again — asked her if we had to use all the materials from our curriculum or if we could supplement while following the concepts/skills/standards. We’d be teaching the same standards but teaching it differently. No, she said. Use the given materials (books (actually “anchor texts”), vocab cards, “community texts” (student textbooks), leveled readers and decodables) and do not stray from the program. I literally asked her, “No creativity?” She responded, “As much as the curriculum allows.”
As well, related to this, I received my first evaluation the day before. I was knocked down a notch because I was not teaching the Common Core script during my ELA observation. I told my principal I was teaching the concept and skill, I was just using a different text because the kids were interested in that topic instead of the one provided to me by the purchased curriculum.
I seriously need a new job. I cannot be a teacher any more. I cannot, in good conscience, teach like this. My students are bored silly and cry because they want to read their books and learn what they want to learn about. I tried that and was told, point blank, no. This is not teaching. This is factory work. I did not go to school for an advanced degree to pump out widgets. I cannot do this.
Teachers used to be trusted to know what to teach when and how to teach it. That is not so much the case now as more and more teachers are being told what to teach, when to teach it, and how to teach it. Good teachers who can teach without having to follow a script are considering leaving, and many have already, or are being pressured to leave or succumb to a widget producing approach to delivering instruction.