I’ve been struggling more as a teacher this year than ever before. I managed to make it past those terrible first few years that destroy most aspiring educators, and yet, here in year 7, I’m on the precipice of those depths of despair Ann – with – an – e is so oddly enamored with.
“What on earth is going on?” I ask myself. “I love teaching! I love students and literature! Why am I so unhappy?” The answers to those questions are certainly complex, and yet, I find myself considering the possibility that there is an answer that puts me on a side of a political cage match. While I’d rather not be on any side of any such match, the variables seem (I say seem because there is quite a lot more research to be done) to combine for a HUGE politically-charged opinion.
Here’s my experience, research-light:
1.Someone, somewhere decided it was a brilliant idea to link teacher pay with student scores. Our district came up with a new instrument for measuring teacher success, and now, via an incomprehensible math problem, there is a number linked to my name that my principal doesn’t seem to understand, so, of course, neither do I.
2. Last year began with a bunch of hooplah about Common Core. committees were formed, we tried to be positive, and we went to work. I began the work of implementing the standards, which really means that I kept doing what I had been doing before, only I emphasized close reading a whole heck of a lot.
3. This year, English and Math classes in our district acquired new text books that are intended to help in the Common Core implementation. Evidently the math book is crap (I don’t have a ton of first-hand knowledge, but that’s what I hear from teachers, students and parents). However, the English book is decent except that complications arose because we were not given the time or the resources to effectively use our text books. Here are some of the complications:
- Kids don’t have the books at home, so they have to access the books online. Some kids don’t have computers. Others don’t have high-speed interwebs. None of them retain info as well when they read from a screen… etc…
- The old books were removed from our classrooms over the Summer, so we essentially had two days to plan out an entire school year. Much of that time was spent setting up our classes on the publisher’s website because each student had to be manually added to the online class before he or she could access the books.
- The computer labs are always full because we’re trying to use the resources well, but there aren’t enough computers for all of us to use at one time. In fact, there aren’t enough computers for 20% of our kids to be on computers all at the same time.
- We’re using a ton of copies.
4. One of the math teachers at my school was called in for a meeting during which he was told he had to teach from the text book that he believed to be inferior, if not damaging to children.
5. I began to lose it.
Do you see how number 1 and number 4 could be cause for concern? Already, there is a number that no one understands, that my boss can’t even explain to me, linked to my pay and this other teacher’s pay. Now, on top of that, we’re expected to do things we believe are inappropriate for kids… that means my pay is no longer IN ANY WAY linked to things I can control. If I am told how to teach, and am threatened with disciplinary action if I refuse, then I certainly should not be held accountable for the effectiveness of a choice I wasn’t allowed to make. Add to that the frustrations that come with implementing a set of standards that we have very little data on, using resources that I can’t fully take advantage of… and maybe I have reason to be unhappy. Maybe it’s okay for me to express an opinion about it. In fact, maybe I have a duty to express that opinion.
Here’s a video of a kid that blows my mind.