Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Why I *do not* want to give up teaching

I keep seeing this article in my facebook feed:

I began a comment to reply to someone's post one day, but then decided not to post. Then I noticed it again because another friend, one of my best, had commented on it. And now, today, it came up again, posted by a family member. So, I decided I must reply.

If you want to read the article first, click here.

The author says, "Unfortunately, government attempts to improve education are stripping the joy out of teaching and doing nothing to help children. The Common Core standards require teachers to march lockstep in arming students with "21st-century skills."

I say: Well, yes, politicians are making laws that impact our teaching. But, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are better than what we used to have: each state with their own standards and no way to compare progress state-to-state. So I say, that's a win.

I also say: No one is stripping the joy out of teaching for me. The CCSS isn't making it harder to be a teacher, it's just refining my focus. You can still do all the things you did before - you just need to make sure you are using assessment to guide your teaching, which is what good teachers do anyways. The author mentioned not teaching her favorite novel. Ummm...the CCSS didn't tell you to do that. There are still literature standards in the Common Core! What it does say is don't only teach literature - expose kids to nonfiction, too. And guess what? That's important!

The author says, "The Smarter Balance program assumes my students are comfortable taking tests on a computer, even if they do not own one."

I say: Totally agree. It's going to take some time for the kids to get used to completing the test on a computer, but remember how technologically savvy our kids are? I think this may be a bigger problem for teachers than kids. They'll be fine. Plus: I'm sure someone, somewhere, is doing a study about testing on a computer vs. testing on paper. New research will emerge. Be patient.

The author says, "My most important contributions to students are not addressed by the Common Core, Smarter Balance and teacher evaluations. I come in early, work through lunch and stay late to help children who ask for assistance but clearly crave the attention of a caring adult."

I say: I totally agree. These tests and evaluations don't measure these things, or if children are avid readers, have favorite authors, or are kind and compassionate people. As teachers, we see those things in our students, just like our principals see those things in us. I don't think these changes make principals out 'to get' anyone. They are a measure of accountability, but at the end of the day, I know that my work ethic and contributions are valued at my school. There isn't a test or evaluation that is going to tell me that. It all lies in trust and the relationship I have with my boss. I have been lucky to work for *amazing* administrators. And...if the day came that I didn't feel that way, it would be time to move on. Bottom line: Our principals are well aware of all the great things we bring to their school, and there isn't any test or evaluation document that would change their mind.

The author says, "Until this year, I was a highly regarded certified teacher. Now, I must prove myself with data that holds little meaning to me. I no longer have the luxury of teaching literature, with all of its life lessons, or teaching writing to students who long to be creative."

I say: Okay, I've been careful not to go overboard about the woman who wrote this article, but this is ridiculous. She no longer has the luxury of teaching literature? There are ten standards that revolove around literature! (For anyone not in education, don't be so quick to believe every piece written on the Internet!) Also, I am sure she is just overreaching. I'm sure she's still highly regarded as a certified teacher. This isn't the first year of standardized testing, and that data is just one piece of the puzzle! Remember what I said about trust from your admin? Same thing applies here.

The author says, "Teaching is the most difficult — but most rewarding — work I have ever done. It is, however, art, not science."

I say: It's actually both art and science. There is a science to how we implement instruction. There are certain things we can do as educators to enhance our lessons: State objectives, define key vocabulary, have kids work in cooperative structures to equalize participation and build language among ELL students. We can give assessments to measure how well we did and then go back and reteach or enrich based on what the data says.

But it is also art. In college, no one taught me how important it is to build relationships with kids. No one taught me that sometimes kids just need a hug. No one told me to go to Jesus' house every morning with the School Resource Officer and pick him up because he couldn't read and didn't like school. No one told me buy supplies for the girl who couldn't afford them or show up to soccer games and talk to the families of the kids I teach. No one taught me those things and no test measures it - that is the art of teaching.

Teaching is, in fact, both an art and science.

Teaching isn't easy. There are a lot of demands. Often times it is overwhelming. But if I didn't teach, I wouldn't have got this text from Lillian yesterday:

Or met a best friend:

Or met awesome kids who make me laugh and teach me patience (among other things) every day:

Petie was in my very first class!

Singing the school song....

Or got a Master's in Reading:

Or found my favorite book (The Giver) and shared it with multiple groups of kids:

Or taught (and had fun with) the most amazing group of teachers:

No job is perfect. There's always going to be something about it that isn't awesome. Since most people went to a public school, they think they know what it's like to be a teacher...but attending school isn't the same as teaching it. Anyways, good or bad, not sure what other career could offer all this...and a snow day.

Your thoughts?

Stay warm!


  1. I think your pictures say it all. Students are still at the heart of what we do and if we continue to listen to what they are saying, we will know what we need to teach next. A standard is a framework...or a guide. We teach individuals and move them forward in their knowledge.

    1. You're so right about starting with the kids. Yetta Goodman was one of the researchers I read a lot of in grad school and she called herself a 'kidwatcher' and it's so true....teach on each of their different paths!
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  2. Excellent piece here. I hadn't seen that article yet and am glad it was brought to my attention. I agree that CCSS is a good thing and is bringing us together as a country to figure out what is working and what isn't. I thought you took a nice stance here. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thank you for sharing this! I'm currently in school for Middle Grades Education, and it always frustrates me when people tell me to "pick another career" because of all of the government changes. I believe that if you find a career that you are passionate about then nothing should impact that. The common core is just a foundation to build off of.

    1. Jessica - you're so right about doing what you're passionate about. Middle school is the best...and cool that you're blogging to document all of it as you go! Always make time for reflection...if only I had a blog from my first few years!
      :-) Michelle

  4. This is so awesome! Thank you. Love your pictures!

  5. Ugh! I wish you were in our staff meeting this morning! I LOVE this post :-)

  6. Thanks for responding to this article. I also wanted to comment about this article when I saw it on Facebook. I agree with your reflection and often say the same thing about teaching that you mentioned at the end... most people feel they are an expert on public education because they attended public school. Thanks for reminding everyone that being an educator is a profession, career, passion, and talent. :)


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