Monday, August 24, 2009

Shout! Shout! ... Let It All Out!

My postings usually start with song lyrics. Perhaps because the hooks speak so loudly to me. But as Tears for Fears wrote, "come on, I'm talking to you".
Today I did one of those things that truly scare me, I spoke out.
It began with an email I received that was sent to LAUSD's Superintendent, the Los Angeles School Board, and representatives of United Teachers of Los Angeles. Its author was venting about the salaries of LAUSD teachers.
He began with a litany of the expectations that are being placed on teachers: to innovate, to tailor instruction based on assessment, to engage all of their students. I immediately thought that he must be working for a different LAUSD. And I got mad.
I got mad, because if it were true that I was given the freedoms to teach my students based on their needs, I would once again love teaching.
In my anger, I wrote. I wrote about the conspicuously low expectations being placed on me. I am expected to regurgitate a scripted program with 'fidelity' according to a pre-determined schedule that I had NO part of designing. This schedule imposes time formats that contradict any research into the attention spans of five year old children.
I'm expected to be in lock-step with a pacing plan that takes for granted that children learn at different paces. I don't object to a pacing plan as a guideline, but when that pacing plan either bulldozes or stultifies my students, it needs amending. I am not expected to amend the plan to best suit my students.
And as for innovation? I am expected to open the teacher's edition and read what it says verbatim, even when it says to ask my students to 'predict' the next event in a story they've already heard four and five times.
If this blurb describing my 'expected' teaching format feels mind numbing, imagine how it feels to do this, and most importantly? How it feels to have this done to you. A classroom of bright, enthusiastic, energetic five year olds with unlimited potentials ahead of them are forcefed this drivel on a daily basis. And all that is expected of me is to force feed them.
(Smoothing my hair and pajama top calmly after my rant...) So I wrote about what is truly being expected of me.
Then I did a remarkably scary thing, I hit 'reply all'.
I sent out into the world my little notice of rebellion, my plea for the well-being of my students. And then I did something brave. I posted my letter for anyone to see on FaceBook and Twitter. I invited people to retweet my personal crusade for children.
There is a part of me that is afraid the district will send me to 'teacher jail', but there is a bigger part of me that hopes they try it. Bring it!