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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Breaking Bad = Breaking Good

Confession: I love the AMC show show, Breaking Bad. It is brilliant. The acting, the writing, the writing, the writing (Did I mention the writing?). I have to wonder if the writers were weaned on the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards, would we have had this kind of out-of-the-box, sophisticated, genre bending writing?



Viewers learn early on that Bryan Cranston's character, Walter White, decides to take a huge risk to provide for his family's future after he is diagnosed with lung cancer. He is a chemistry genius turned high school teacher who seems like he has been put in a little box on the hillside made of ticky-tacky, doing what he was supposed to do... until the moment when breaking bad would allow him to leave his family financially sound.



Walter White teams up with a vulnerable and underachieving, ex-student, Jesse, who turns to him as a father figure and to earn some extra bucks for his own drug habit. Together they cook and sell the world's purest crystal meth, and their violent adventures roll out from there.


 What would you do if you if you knew you had a limited amount of time left on this planet?  That is the question I asked myself last summer as I learned more & more about the corporate education reform movement. I am healthy and, thank goodness, my family is fine, so taking them out of the equation, what remains is work. I love my job. I love teaching.  I love my school district. I am lucky.



But I decided to break bad at school this year - only my breaking bad is a show called, Breaking Good. It stars a phenomenal cast of public school students, teachers, administrators, and a rocking school board. They are all learning about the attack on public education at different rates and each episode focuses on one of them. This season's students are bright, funny, fiesty, and full of vim and vigor. They are engaged in class, debate about current world issues, and are ready to take on the universe. But in the latest episode the students have a bad day. Cue background music by Daniel Powter:

Sometimes the system goes on the blink
And the whole thing turns out wrong
You might not make it back and you know
That you could be well oh that strong
And I'm not wrong

(Yeah,yeah,yeah,yeah)

So where is the passion when you need it the most
Oh you and I
You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost...



We lost them because today on Breaking Good students were required to interrupt their usual programming—the lessons they were really into and excited about—for some fall tests to get ready for the spring tests to prepare for the state mandated tests. In each class, students who were just yesterday smiling, engaged, and excited about learning fought for their fifteen minutes of fame as the cameras moved in for close-ups. Some brows furrowed in concentration, pencil tips stood at attention on lined paper, eyes stared at the ceiling, the walls, and often angrily at me. Their expressions varied in this episode, from,  "Please help." to,  "I thought you were different. "

They asked questions and my character had to respond, "I cannot answer that question."
My character is a decent human being. She cares about her students. She prepares them for their tests, but in Breaking Good, the good guys always win. And win they will in next week's episode.



Next week on Breaking Good: With the first round of getting ready for the test to get ready for the test to be ready for the test, behind them, the students have had a weekend to rejuvenate, play video games, de-stress and charge their latte fueled batteries. The teachers will use their distraction skills to waste valuable test prep time, and instead focus on useless and non-tested topics such as foreign language, civics, history, creative writing, art, music, physical education, and other non-essentials. As the fantastic team of administrators walks the hallways, ipads in hand, the camera cuts close and one can see that our school is in good hands. Behind a peeling, weathered and well-worn "ACHIEVEMENT MATTERS" sticker on the principal's lapel, a new word is peeking out from behind. "THINK" it says.




 






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