What have We Become…

   Avatar n my shoulder  I really wanted my first post here- to be one of brimming with hope and promise– Reality check!  When outcomes of a district budget fiasco resulted in my being reassigned to the classroom- I vowed to document the experience.

I planned  on tracing the transition of the  projects and programs I’ve developed over the last years into  53 minute Carnegie units—and sharing the rekindling of my first fires–those that sparked when I served  students in the third and later 4th grades –fires that  have stayed with me over the years  while away from the classroom—embedded in my teacher soul.   But I must have forgotten what it’s like to be a first year teacher (which is essentially  my situation after ten years in instructional tech and library media)  My memory had clouded over the scores of detailed, tiresome tasks that must be done each day–and the  planning–and the meetings–and the pull-outs, and the parent calls and conferences, and the arranging of rooms and the garage sale hunting for bits  and pieces that might transform a stark industrial room into a classroom that is welcoming —a place where children may actually want to spend their time. Yep!  I’d forgotten the bells and the interruptions that prohibit any semblance of flow in our learning time.

       Wrapping up week one, I was just glad to have succeeded in committing fifty names to faces.   By week two, I became resigned to a dining room table buried under books and journals and papers.  And by week three, when the inevitable  sniffles and scratchy throat heralded the mandatory  head-cold, I knew I was back!  As if in some skewed version of the hero’s journey -I had come full circle–and was back to where I had started seventeen years ago–the core of my calling– the classroom.  There and back again; back to earnest, inquisitive faces, back to easy grins and shining eyes, and back to building trust, serving respect, and making magic whenever we can.

As in years past, our opening days were ripe with ritual; fire drills, hearing tests, and assemblies outlining rules and regulations.  Details of dress codes and role-play scenarios portraying how to “best the bully” fulfilled mandates from the latest state legislation…and finally, in week three–I thought perhaps we might get down to the business of learning.

      So there I was — in my head I was already composing  my opening blog post— describing my ingenious method of introducing  sixth graders to Joseph Campbell with three heroes;  a quick peek down the rabbit hole to check in with Alice, a visit to Bag End to greet Bilbo Baggins, and Percy Jackson would serve  as the catalyst to connect mythos and narrative as we navigate this tangled web we call humanities.

      However, the recounting of my magical triad fell by the wayside when one of those  “beginning of the year” traditions  actually stopped me in my tracks, broke the trance I had devised in my mind’s eye- and smacked me back to the harsh reality that is public education today.

It was, oddly enough, Picture Day that yielded the indisputable evidence of the tragic state of affairs in education.   In truth, picture day itself went off without a hitch.  A smattering of my students showed up in “extra effort” garb, but it wasn’t until  we received our prints that this story really takes shape.   The wake up call came in a crisp white envelope with a  clear plastic window —each one revealing one of my students grinning.  Oh — what’s this? How lovely!  A package of prints for each teacher as well!   And look! They’ve even included a sign for my door!  Now,  anyone who wants to do a minimal amount of snooping will be able to ascertain the name of the photography company, but suffice to say I have worked in three different districts, in three different states, and this particular company serviced  all three districts.  In fact, according to their website, they are the world’s largest  school photography retailers…
     So my friends, here is what the world’s largest school photography company  deemed an appropriate “gift” for the teachers.  Since we need our photos taken  for our ID badges each year, we receive a package with  a sheet of wallet sized portraits, as well as a 3X 5 .  This year, the company threw in a sign for our  classroom doors.  Please consider that of all the sentiments they could have chosen  to best appeal to all teachers, this is the one they  deemed most universally appropriate.

Wouldn't every teacher want one of these to grace the classroom door?
Wouldn’t every teacher want one of these to grace the classroom door?

Of course, I tweeted out my bewilderment,  disillusionment, anger, and frustration immediately  and my PLN saved me with good humor.    Aaron Smith (@theartguy)  shot this “correction” back to me — almost twitch speed!

The initial edit…

and then  a few seconds  later–even  better:


Despite my  librarian roots, the “SHHHH” has got to go as well…

What greater evidence do we need to see that the school culture has shifted to one of high test accountability,  No. 2 pencil rigor?  There it is.  It has now been established as the core of what we do…We are testing academies.

What have we become?  What are we doing to our children?  In my mind it is nothing short of criminal.

*Please note that the views and opinions, rants and raves expressed within these posts are solely my own and are noway meant to reflect the opinions of my employer or any entity for whom I consult.

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