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Teacher or Score Whore? August 13, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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“All perceived underachievement by students is entirely the fault of teachers.” 

I’ve been mulling over posting Rewriting the Attack on Teachers from The Last Word on The Lawrence O’Donnell Show for over a week now. The show featured a clip of Matt Damon and his mom, who is a teacher, speaking out against this national obsession with standardized testing. The comment above is taken from the show. (And yes, if you click on the link, you have to sit through a commercial first. ^#^&8&.)

But in the meanwhile, MY students’ STAR test results came in. I was elated to learn that four of my 28 third graders scored a perfect 600 in math on the standardized STAR test given in May! Even more exciting, 24 scored Advanced and 2 at the Proficient level. I wasn’t surprised about the two students who didn’t make the grade. They struggled all year and scored Basic, but it could have been worse. There ARE sub-levels of failure including Below Basic and Far Below Basic.

It helped that this year I taught a cluster of GATE (Gifted and Talented Students). They made up half of the class. The four previous years, I taught an ELD (English Language Development) cluster where the test scores can sometimes make you wonder if you’ve been talking to yourself all year.

My students’ English Language Arts scores were less stellar, but that’s always the case. Whereas, math is black and white, the English Language is a moving target for my students. Still, if I taught in one of those districts that handed out money for test scores. Ka-ching! My initial reaction was, “Woo hoo!”

But then I got to thinking, something that teachers are prone to do. Though my class tested well, most of my students have difficulty writing a coherent paragraph. And with all that test prep, we barely touched on those two subjects that begin with S – Science and Social Studies. But these things aren’t “on the test” which is code for they must not be that important.

But what about imagination, passion, and creativity? Matt Damon asked. “None of these qualities that make me who I am can be tested.” Sssh! The elephant in the room has stirred!

In Not Your Imagination: Kids Today Really Are Less Creative, Study Says, Ron Beghetto, an educational psychologist at the University of Oregon, posits, “The current focus on testing in schools, and the idea that there is only one right answer to a question, may be hampering the development of creativity among kids,” adding, “There ‘s not much room for unexpected, novel or divergent thought.”


When it comes to talking not just about educational reform, but educational Revolution, I can think of no one as articulate and downright funny as Sir Ken Robinson. In his 18-minute talk at TED Bring on the Learning Revolution!, Robinson urges us to scrap the outdated industrial/manufacturing/fast food model of education where the goal is standardization and success is based on the standardized test in favor of a model where kids’ natural talents can flower. He also debunks the myths that “Everyone should go college” and “College begins in Kindergarten.”

It’s rousing food for thought, especially as a new school year awaits. Score whore no more! I’m a teacher. Period.

Credit: Score: Score Whore merchandise (yes, that’s the front of a notecard for the teachers in YOUR life) available through Urban Dictionary.

Confessions of a Greedy Teacher March 4, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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I’m  sitting on my fat ass eating bonbons as I write this. Er, make that sitting “crisscross applesauce.” You see, as a teacher I’m held to a higher moral standard. That’s why Natalie Munroe, the Philadelphia English teacher, who blogged that her students were “unmotivated” “rude” and “dressed like streetwalkers” was suspended. Okay, she said more than that, but it was all so well written that it’s hard to imagine why so many people got their undies in a bunch. Who’s that elephant sitting in the room?  Oh, that would be The Truth. When I heard she came up with some alternate report card comments, I expected, “Shallow End of the Gene Pool” or “Future fodder for America’s Most Wanted.” But she took the high road. She of little imagination.

Whatever is wrong with society – blame it on those greedy teachers. Yeah, that’s why I drive a five-year-old Honda – the official Teacher Car. Today I actually sprang for a Lean Cuisine (Don’t ever nuke anything that is supposedly “beef”), instead of my usual instant oatmeal with a Coke Zero. You haven’t experienced fine dining till you’ve eaten oatmeal with a spork while waiting to run copies before picking up your class. Throw in a rainy day and that’s proof positive that there is Hell on Earth.

And what’s all this talk this a three-month summer vacation? Last year I got out June 23rd. Though school started again in mid-September (after three unpaid furlough days), teachers were back at school the last week of August setting up their classrooms. Nine blissful weeks off with no pay. That’s as good as it gets.

In an interview with protestors in Madison, Wisconsin, one woman said, “I’m here because although I hated school, I loved my teachers.” I wanted to give her a virtual hug but worried about sexual harassment charges.

Jon Stewart tried to bolster the sagging spirits of beleaguered teachers recently with a pep talk on Camera 3. His hilarious solution to combat those “greedy teachers” who are destroying America can be seen on The Daily Show.com .  (Type Message for Teachers into Search to view Crisis in Dairyland – Message for Teachers from the Feb. 28th show.)

As teachers, we are expected to be all things to all people. I believe our brains should be studied along with those of psychopaths to find out what motivates us to do a job that requires us to move mountains while having our hands tied behind our backs by regulations, paperwork, and No Child Left Behind (or only a few children left behind, and hopefully one of them is not yours).

This morning I read about the 12-year-old who killed his parents in Colorado and wounded his siblings. My first thought was, “Well, who was HIS teacher? String ’em up!  Who knows how to tie a hangman’s knot?”  But it turned out he was homeschooled. Otherwise there would be yet another teacher with blood or Vis-a-Vis marker stains on their hands.

Another mother was arrested after her dead son was found (still warm) in an oven. Her sister asked that people not rush to judgement because, “She was a great mother.” The key word is “was.” If this poor child hadn’t died, he’d soon be enrolled in a public school near you. And some teacher would be expected to “turn him around” (even though mom’s phone had been disconnected and even though she didn’t show up for a Parent-Teacher Conference that the teacher rescheduled three times for her convenience). What’s wrong with this picture?

I started a list of all the hats that teachers wear during any given day as an homage to Dr. Seuss’ The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, but 500 wasn’t enough.  Besides, wearing all of those hats just increases the likelihood of an outbreak of lice.

Ahhh, just another day in Paradise. Pass me another bonbon, won’t you?

Photo Credit:  To buy a Miracle Worker mug for that teacher in your life, click here.