I read fellow educator/blogger Will R.’s posting on his Weblogged site with a sad heart. His observations about his daughter’s school project ("My mind caught a picture of 18 cloned paper mache turtles drying on the window sill in her classroom") spoke volumes about how teachers (and their students) are restricted by the burgeoning culture of standardized testing.
Will lamented our continuation of an outdated delivery system that stresses test taking over developing a “passion for learning first”. “(W)e continue to do what we’ve done for the last 100years…”
But as recently as 5 years ago, I felt encouraged to take stock of and plan for my students’ unique interests and skills. Now, the state and county have “teacher-proofed” the curriculum to maximize time and focus, with the goal of passing the state tests. No more leeway. Limited creativity.
And less satisfaction for me as a teacher.
I empathized with Will’s daughter’s teacher. Chances are she/he would have loved to differentiate the turtle project, but with so much at stake (AYP, for example), just providing an art response activity was probably a big risk.
Will recognized something I notice about my own teaching now. He sees “islands of success in seas of mediocrity”. My goal is to surreptitiously carve out as many of these creative, transformative islands as possible, even if that means some of my units are less active, more mediocre than I would like.
I end up making choices. And ultimately, isn't that all any of us as teachers do?