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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Trusting teachers to do what they have been hired to do

As a teacher, I am so busy and immersed in working with my students that I often forget that teacher appreciation week is the perfect time to send a note to the teachers of my own children. So to the creative & intuitive 5th grade teacher of my youngest, and her patient & kind math teacher, this is for you. For the 8th grade teachers of my middle child, you make science matter, math understandable, and social studies, reading and writing relevant and important. To the high school teachers who help my oldest develop the perseverance to stick with books that challenge her, make her passionate about biology, make geometry sink in, make social studies matter enough that she is going on a  trip to Spain with you & her peers this summer - thank you! Thank you to their teachers of the arts. For without art and music, life would be empty and bland. Thank you to the foreign language teachers, the cooking teachers, the tech ed and computers teachers, the physical education teachers, and thank you for the hilarious health class stories that the kids bring  home after they learn about their bodies. And yes, in our school district we are still lucky enough, at this moment, to have all of these classes for our kids. Every student should.





In the Connecticut Post, Bryan Ripley Crandell, Ph.D., the director of the Connecticut Writing Project, based at Fairfield University wrote a post honoring the teachers of Connecticut. He calls teachers artists. I happen to agree.





He asks us to "...celebrate every educator who has dedicated their lives to the intellectual, social, physical and spiritual well-being of others." In case you don't know, teachers in our area are now suffering from a number of the same demoralizing experiences that our urban teachers have been dealing with for years. There is a point to this state-led teacher bullying. It is to make parents want to pull their children out of public schools. It is to try to trick us that school "choice" and charter schools would be better for our kids. The thing is, our schools were great before the state started mandating and micromanaging.
We aren't buying it.

"Kids today are the smartest generation yet."
PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE NOT FAILING!
Watch this 5 minute video clip of Jon Stewart interviewing Diane Ravitch.



Crandell continues: "Teaching is a unique profession that requires an expertise in history, research, lived experiences, language, culture, sociology, psychology, mathematics and the humanities.
Those who spend time in the classroom quickly learn to be the greatest proponents of American democracy. Every classroom, even the homogenous one, is a heterogeneous pastiche of individuality and personalities. Teachers are listeners, mentors, experts, coaches, entertainers, wizards and scientists."

Most importantly, he writes this, "Our nation's recent test-crazed anarchy provides better data for political avarice and shortsighted hubris than it does for what educators accomplish in their classrooms when they are given time to actually teach. We know that the best work occurs when teachers are provided resources, when they are treated as professionals, and when they are trusted to do what they've been hired to do."



Great teaching may look easy, as if anyone can walk into a classroom and do it. However, having been a good student doesn't mean one will be a good teacher. It truly is an art. I know it when my children come home from school excited to learn, fascinated by the content and conversations in their classroom. I know it when my children want to go to school, to be a part of a community of learners. I know it when my children (who are sometimes reluctant readers) sink into the sofa with a good book. I know it when they are assigned a challenging & creative project that draws them in and makes them debate a topic at the dinner table.




So thank you to each of my children's teachers over all of these years. And thank you to the future teachers who are sure to face the pressures of state mandates and struggle to figure out how to "teach right" in a culture that claims the data of invalid and extremely controversial standardized tests is all that matters. I am telling you here, publicly, that I trust you with my children. Do what the state mandates, then teach from your heart. Because it is the non-measurable, poorly named, but very important "soft skills" of education that will make our children's education equal to that of their private school friends and peers.

On this Mother's Day, I remind our politicians that my children are not data points.
Our children know this. Parents know this. Teachers know this.
Listen and learn.



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