Monday, November 10, 2003
I had a really lovely weekend, which has made me a better teacher. I think that the state should give teachers everything they want and need and then the achievement gap will close. Happy teachers are good teachers.
I'm feeling a little frustrated today by standardized testing. I know this is to be expected. But seeing it up close and personal really puts it into perspective. In North Carolina, students are required to pass this computer test. Makes sense in a lot of ways-- I agree that students should be familiar with word processing and the internet. These are now required skills for many jobs and just some things in general. It would be hard to navigate college applications and financial aid, for instance, if you didn't know a thing about the internet.
But my kids are also required to know how to build databases. How is that a necessary skill? I am sure that it is useful, but for a group of kids that read and write way below grade level, I feel like their time is better spent learning those skills. Also, no one is training teachers (at least not at my school) on these skills, so the kids aren't being taught well at all. The teacher responsible for teaching the database portion of the test told me today that she just reads from this script thing and hands out worksheets. She says there is no way she could build one herself. So basically, I am sending my students out this week to have a two-hour opportunity to fail and feel crappy about themselves. Because God knows they don't have enough of those opportunities.
And they take these tests really seriously. They understand that they are important. They also understand that they keep failing them. They think they are stupid and as much as I try to teach them how the system is screwing them, they are not at a place where they can understand such big concepts. It is so much easier to believe that they are just dumb.
So that is a bummer. But I am also having a really good time with my students lately. I am actually enjoying their company. I have met with a few parents of the really hard cases and that is helping a little. My principal asked me today if I had any students I wanted to "long term", meaning kick out of school all together and send to an alternative school or something. I had a lot of power to do that because she knows how unruly and violent some of my kids are. It was a revealing moment for me because when I sat down and considered each of my students, I realized that I didn't really want to lose any of them. Not my burglar, not the girl who threw a desk at me, not my petty thieves, not the girl who hurled a book at me and called me a bitch. Given the chance to get rid of them, I told my principal that I would keep them all. That feels amazing. ¶ 12:56 PM