To “Stick-To-It” Teachers

Teachers, I highly respect all of you who continue to stick to it in spite of how broken our education systems are.

Some of you are amazing in your ability to keep your dreams and passions burning. You are fully aware of what the system is trying to do to you, but you only *appear* to be compliant, maintaining your own standards and values in the class room. I aspired to you, but was not capable of pulling it off. I wish I’d had more time to spend watching and learning from you.

Not all of you who have stuck with it are as fortunate. The fire has gone out in many of you, and you stick to it only because it’s “a job” in a time of record-breaking unemployment rates. I understand and support you in doing what you have to do. It took courage for me to walk away from the job and the benefits, but it would have required even more courage for me to stay. I commend you for your courage, and pray that you are able to remember why you wanted to teach in the first place.

Then there are those of you who are unaware of what is going on because you are so caught up in being a dedicated and compliant employee, which is commendable. But as such, you are kept so busy with the bureaucratic tasks of being an employee that you don’t have the time or the energy to look, see, and acknowledge the situation. You have become a good employee at the expense of being a good teacher. My heart hurts deeply for this group because I was fast becoming one of you.

I didn’t see it until I got out. I was quickly (albeit not-so-quietly) becoming the data-driven “robotucator” that the system is discreetly yet vigorously trying to generate. We know the importance of differentiating for students, yet the system’s covert agenda is to generate cookie-cutter high school graduates, and they need cookie-cutter educators to make this happen.

Differentiation and creativity in teachers and teaching styles is strongly discouraged, though the system doesn’t put it in those words. They prefer to say that they “want us all on the same page.” Collaboration no longer looks  like teachers seeking each other out for advise, suggestions, and brainstorming as needed; it has become “meet to ensure that everybody is teaching the same thing at the same time, in the same way, using the same lessons, activities, and assessments.”

Toward the end of my brief teaching career, I caught myself bemoaning the fact that students were coming to class, keeping me from doing my job. That was my first clue that something was wrong. I had started out being all about the kids and making literature come alive for them, but the system had surreptitiously and effectively shifted my focus to:
– testing to create data
– analyzing and comparing the data
– attending meetings about testing
– attending meetings about data
– attending department meetings
– attending grade-level meetings (x2 since I had two preps)
– attending faculty meetings
– attending training meetings
– preparing materials for meetings
– documenting proof of my pedagogical knowledge
– documenting proof of my content knowledge
– contacting a specified number of parents
– documenting proof that I had contacted a specified number of parents
– documenting classroom management strategies
– “decorating” my room with mandated standards-related material
– documenting proof that I was teaching the standards
– documenting, proving, attending, blah, blah, blah!

Teachers, if this is you, please, please, please, open your eyes! Don’t let them do this to you, and don’t do this to yourselves! Continue teaching if you must, but collaborate with those who have found a way to keep the dream-fire burning. Comply if you must, but do so with your eyes wide open and hold tightly to your standards, values, passion, and whatever makes you YOU. And please remember that if it isn’t ultimately helping the kids succeed, it’s more than likely just bureaucratic nonsense.

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