Today I lost track of the number of times someone said to me, “You just have to teach to the test.”
After just five years in education, I’ve seen a lot of changes. When I began teaching, we were being trained in things like assessment writing, project building, and curriculum design. Now we’re being told how to implement someone else’s lesson plans, how to fill in someone else’s paperwork, and how to teach to someone else’s test. Most days I feel like a factory worker, assembling the next big doodad that someone else far far away created.
What about my ability and need to create? What about the fact that I know my students? And why are we paying people (good money) to write curriculum if we’re “just teaching to a test” that isn’t based on any curriculum at all?
What will our students learn? Who decides what they learn? How will they learn? And what is my role in that as a teacher? I thought after 5 years I would have solidified all of this, but each year I find that more gets taken away from me. It’s a terrible feeling.
Other phrases I wrestled with today were as follows:
“We have a test today?”
“She get that from her mama.”
“I’ll just call you ‘white girl’.”
When someone asks, “how was your day?”, a wide range of experiences pass through my mind. There are only a few worth sharing.
Sometimes I feel like “that girl” who breaks the news that there is no Santa Clause. I spend so much time lauding the merits of democracy – rights, freedoms, voting, consent. And then I get questions like the one Shermane asked me today:
“Mrs. Russ, what about convicted felons? I mean, I know sometimes they can’t vote when they’re in jail, but what about when they get out? Can they vote or run for office?”
I told him what a great question that was, and that it depends on the state. I explained that some states don’t let felons vote in prison, but other states don’t let felons vote even after they’ve done their time. And that means they can’t run for office either.
His eyes fell, as if I had delivered really disappointing but expected news. “Oh. I don’t want you to think bad of me or nothin, but I have several family members who have felonies on their records, so I was just wondering.”I told him that I understood, and that I get that question a lot. On his way out, he asked if I could send a progress note to his dad.