Monday, February 13, 2006

On becoming a SERIOUS educator....

Over at Education Wonks, the main man reports and comments on the latest information coming out of Madame Spellings' office. She is asking of educators and those interested in school reform: "Let's get serious".

(Check here for the info and Edwonks very astute read on what's missing from Ms. Spellings' plans.)

Immediately I was reminded of a comparison I recently made between my current teaching practice and my less effective, less focused teaching of years past. Previously I noted that with the advent of NCLB, my teaching skills improved because of newly acquired data about my students learning. That is, with closer, more frequent assessment required by my school as part of our statewide response to NCLB, I can target areas of weakness, revamp plans and strategies for meeting all my students' competing needs, and therefore do a better job overall.

It feels fine for me to say I am now MORE FOCUSED....MORE TARGETED....MORE SUCCESSFUL.

It does not, however, feel okay when Ms. Spellings identifies these changes as a result of my finally "getting serious". If she thinks I was not serious about teaching/ learning in the past, she just doesn't get teachers. I've met only a handful of teachers in 20 years who were not serious about their teaching. Being SERIOUS is not the problem. It's about being effective, about knowing (not guessing) what works and what doesn't, and getting the support to put all of it into place.

Serious? Who is she kidding? Did she think I wasn't serious my first year of teaching when I stayed until 6:30 every night to plan for my 5 preps for 12 Behaviorally Maladjusted highschoolers who came to class doped up, criminally inclined, damaged and abused, or worse. I left that school after one year, and I am very sure none of the boys I taught graduated. I was certainly not effective; I was definetly serious.

Was seriousness a problem when I taught a small class of general education kindergartners at a private school? I followed the school's curriculum, organized learning and play centers as advised by the school's specialists,and worked very long hours in preparation. In earnest, I faithfully met with parents and my teaching colleagues. Looking back, I see so many holes in my teaching. It's alittle embarrassing. But no one can question my seriousness about my job and my obligations.

So the next time the powers that be make a call to arms, when Ms. Spellings or any of the government's education reform experts want to embolden teachers to forge on, do better, make a difference..... please, don't question my seriousness.

That makes me SERIOUSLY want to scream!

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