Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Whither teaching?

"This isn't what I bargained for."

That's what a young teacher told me yesterday at the elementary school I've been subbing at.

I'm teaching second grade for a few days while the regular teacher is ill. Its a nice school with nice kids, I've subbed there before.

The second grade teacher across the hall was very nice and helped me figure out the lesson plan. As the day progressed I noticed, through the open doors, that her kids were doing exactly what mine were doing at exactly the same time. It dawned on me that these teachers aren't in control of their own lesson plans, as educators they have lost the power to teach spontaneously.

This is - No Child Left Behind - the law that mandates mediocrity in our public schools.

It works like this:
a. the mandated material is presented to the children in the mandated method, state-wide all second graders are doing that same lesson

b. children demonstrate mastery (or not) by doing a worksheet

c. the lesson ends with about half of the kids looking puzzled

d the lesson will not be repeated but the material may be on the yearly standardized test

Perhaps the law should be called "Most Children Left Behind".

I mentioned to that soon to be disgruntled teacher I quoted at the top of the page that there is a code term among long-time teachers who are nearing retirement; "I was teaching back when it was still fun".

I was taught by gifted and autonomous teachers, just as the current generation of new teachers was, they've grown-up with good teaching being modelled, that's the kind of teacher they want to be. They enter their new classrooms with their hands tied by the mandated curriculum and the weight of the standardized tests. The magic that can be teaching is becoming harder to find in the public schools, its not really welcomed. The children who are being taught by this new generation of teachers will grow up with an entirely different notion of what teaching looks like, and will become entirely different teachers from the ones we experienced.

If those kids choose the teaching profession in the first place, after all, those teachers don't appear to be having much fun.

Back to the battlefield this weekend,

and keeping my head down in the classroom

Ranger Mannie...that's "Mister G." to you kid.

1 comment:

Eric Wittenberg said...


Without going off on a political (read--anti-Bush) rant, which is taking a lot self-control, I will say that from what I've seen, this legislation is, without question, the worst thing to happen to education in a LONG time. It's obvious that it breeds mediocrity, just as you say.

An old and dear friend of ours is a 7th grade science teacher in the South. I recommend her blog to you. Her stories will demonstrate just how frustrating she and her teaching partner find this nonsense.

Hang in there. Your REAL job is on that beautiful battlefield of yours.