At her high school, she says all she hears is, “It’s not on the End of Course Test so don’t teach it…our focus is the EOCT.”
Her question to me was: “I thought no one was to know what was on those tests? The kids are getting a buckshot education…a lot of little facts scattered about with nothing to pull them together. Frustrating.”
With that comment as a backdrop, I would like to share an op-ed by Stephanie Jones, an associate professor and graduate coordinator in the Department of Elementary and Social Studies Education at the University of Georgia and co-director of the CLASSroom Project at UGA
I thought the teacher’s comment and Jones’ piece intersect on the point of scripted and restrained teaching;
By Stephanie Jones
What’s the low morale and crying about in education these days? Mandatory dehumanization and emotional policy-making – that’s what.
The first murmurs I heard about teachers in crisis came from a principal several years ago. Teachers were streaming into his office seeking counseling services. Many were taking anti-depressants. Some couldn’t sleep at night, and some were so anxious and stressed they were worried their families would suffer irreparable damage.
Teachers enter the profession to do what is best for the students in front of them and for society at large. They earn degrees, immersed in rigorous study of how and why humans learn, how to individualize instruction, and how to inspire lifelong learning and engaged citizenship.
But individualization, inspiration, and engagement aren’t in current policies, and neither is teachers’ professional knowledge. Instead teachers must follow pacing guides and move on with assignments regardless of whether students are beyond or behind. Anyone can walk into a teacher’s classroom at any moment and evaluate whether the teacher is following the one-size-fits-all program with “fidelity” and “full compliance.”
The choices are soul-crushing: 1) Slow down, teach creatively and get students excited about a topic, but fall behind the pacing guide and receive a poor evaluation and possible humiliation and job loss; or 2) Move on with the pacing guide and ignore students’ pleas for help or their yearning to learn more, and evaluations might be fine, but students suffer.
Most teachers do a little of both, but their no-win situation is devastating. And when students’ needs aren’t met because teachers are following mandates, they also cry or cry out in other ways.
I’ve witnessed sobbing children in school, tears streaking cheeks. Their bodies rejecting the relentless mistreatment they receive from impersonal curriculum, strict limitations on socializing and movement, and harsh punishments for child-like behavior. Students reject dehumanization.
When children hold it together at school they often fall apart at home. Yelling, slamming doors, wetting the bed, having bad dreams, begging parents not to send them back to school.
Some parents seek therapy for their children. More parents than ever feel pressured to medicate their children so they can make it through school days. Others make the gut-wrenching decision to pull their children from public schools to protect their dignity, sanity, and souls. Desperate parents choose routes they have never considered: homeschooling, co-op schooling, or when they can afford it, private schooling. But most parents suffer in silence, managing constant family conflict.
Some people might say that crying is an expression of emotion and that it ought to be kept private. Some might even say crying is a sign of irrationality, of over-sensitivity, of hysteria – all insults used to pathologize women (most teachers and all mothers) for at least 100 years.
However, teachers, students, and parents are not the only emotional players in the unbearable game of school.
Policy makers are emotional. Punitive policies forcing the impossible combination of rigidity and test-based accountability are produced out of fear, anger, distrust, and arrogance. They are written in an irrational effort to control the bodies that fill schools every day.
But policy makers don’t have to endure the physical and psychological effects of their policies – those of us in schools do.
It’s time to stand in solidarity against mandated dehumanization in one-size-fits-all schooling and against over-emotional policy makers who have a reckless stranglehold on schools. Demand that humanity be returned to teachers, students, and parents who know how to make schools dynamic, inspirational places where everyone can thrive.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog