Friday, June 26, 2009

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more"

The beauty of the internet is the ability to learn more about any given topic.
The dark side of the internet is the ability to learn more about any given topic, and by doing so become obsessed by it.
My obsession du jour (okay...du tous les jours) has become education.
As a teacher, I've been very interested in education (as it pertains to my students) for 21 years. Lately, however, I'm becoming obsessed with the politics of education.
This is an exceptionally strange concept. To me, one of the most precious things about teaching was having the ability to isolate myself in my classroom with students and curriculum and thus shut out the noise of the world, largely? educational politics.
With the inception of No Child Left Behind and the shift from teaching children to teaching programs, politics encroached upon my warm, safe, and creative sanctuary. The past three years have been especially odious with an administrator who spent an inadequately brief time as a teacher before her promotions.
My prior administrator did grievous damage to our school because she saw discipline as a necessarily unloving act toward the students. As a consequence, children ran amok and safety became a major issue. But in matters of academics, she looked at the evidence.
While I do not teach 'conventionally' (that is to say, I don't adhere to the structural protocols of the scripted programs, instead teaching the concepts and skills in a more rigorous, child friendly manner), my students were successful. Upon learning how well my kindergarten students were reading and writing, she encouraged me to continue with my methods.
The current administrator does not have that same sensibility.
She feels the need to restrict my teaching to the protocols of whole group instruction, despite research and rationale that supports small groups. She doesn't seem to understand why my students write letters instead of tracing them in the air (and then holds the expectation that they'll have 'nice writing'). And worst of all, she cannot fathom why my students write in journals when Open Court does not include it. She particularly can't understand why I would use their journals to assess their grasps of concepts when there are tests available that allow them to circle pictures instead.
This past year, I lost an enormous amount of sleep trying to reconcile wanting to do everything possible for my students with wanting to not be insubordinate. I suspect that my insomnia will be working overtime reconciling my desire for positive feedback from my boss with my much greater sense of duty to the community that looks to me to be their teacher.
(these kids are adults now. it sure doesn't seem that long ago...)