Take a Bow

Jose VilsonEducation

I’m not sure if I still have a couple of sports fans reading, but notice how as soon as the Red Sox won the World Series and A-Rod opted out of his contract, the weather in New York got extremely bitter. Only with baseball does this happen.

Virtual Insanity VideoIn any case, after the workshop model post, the doctorate post, and a million conversations with educator friends, I started thinking about the instructions and mandates we comply with. A good colleague of mine who I fully expect to retire in the next year or so said imparted one of his infinite wisdoms upon me:

If the master tells me to tie that horse to the pole, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Even if it’s a healthy horse, it’s raining outside, and I know it’s going to catch pneumonia, and its next stop is the glue factory if all that happens, that’s what I’m going to do, so when they ask me what happened, I’ll say “Well, that’s what you told me to do. I didn’t say to do all of that.”

It got me to thinking of my own struggles with authority, or as Amber put it, my Authority Defiance Disorder. Why in the world would I want a perfectly good horse to get tied to a pole and leave it for dead? That’s insane; the master tends to forget that he was the one who asked me to tie that horse to the pole, spinning it to his neighbors and other servants that he had no part in all of that.

This all leads to the argument that educators who care are slaves to this work. We’re constantly asked to change what’s working and stay with what’s not all for the masters’ cause. It’ll be little things like, take a pay cut here and we’ll “transfer” it to your pension, but unfortunately, most teachers never get that far.

And we’re also slaves to the work because a lot of us genuinely care about the actual students. I mean, I have a problem when we waste money on no-bid contracts with outside non-profits who pay off principals like Education Station, NESI, LearnIt, and the nastiest of them all, Platform Learning, and waste time on giving Princeton Review data to play with, but we still have classrooms where the teacher can’t get sufficient books for his or her classroom and we’re providing serious disservices to our bilingual populations. I also have a problem with administrators assuming that just because we love our kids, we’re going to work 14 or so hours whenever they need us to in order to finish up that bulletin board or organize this event or that one in the name of the school.

And these are realistic cases that happen. The more normal stuff is the constant adjustments they ask us to make. It isn’t just about the workshop model. It’s the 8 interim tests NYC schools will be put through, the pre-tests, post-tests, diagnostics, and other data-driven paperwork up to our necks. Because it’s part of the job, we take it, and take it good. Meanwhile, my kids won’t be ready for those tests because we spend all this time testing and testing. I’m all for formative and summative testing; it’s important in assessing how a kid’s doing. I do them all the time informally and formally.

But usually, the assessments don’t really assess anything except the city’s ability to annoy the crap out of teachers just trying to do their jobs. I don’t see how I’ll have time to actually administer my own tests, take care of the school’s tests, and the city’s tests, and the state tests. Increible! I think it’s great to have high standards, but to weigh the teachers and children down with all these mandates really leaves little room for innovation and creativity. This hunger for data to skew, twist, and spin into positive news should really disturb us more than it does, but we’d rather live life with rose-colored lenses.

Plus, it leads us all to believe that we don’t care for the kids, but for the numbers. If we take away the teacher’s freedom to teach, properly assess, seat, and discuss, then all you really have is a moderator, something an unskilled worker can do. We can easily replace experienced teachers with people who haven’t the slightest care for the profession or the kids.

Then again, doesn’t it make sense to leave your employees with as little knowledge as possible? Why would you want your servants to take a course or two in educational policy as part of their masters’ program, instead requiring classes like “artistic expression”? Would you want them to discuss amongst themselves and form a community with each other so they can really discuss things, even if it’s just curriculum planning? Wouldn’t you plant certain people in certain positions if you knew they’d be more divisive amongst the rank and file? So many of us take the good teachers, administrators, and parents for granted, like they’re always going to comply, but don’t it be an issue where we don’t want to anymore. These higher-ups aren’t on the front line, so it behooves them to treat us like pawns in their war.

Even with my modest and quiet demeanor in school, I still emit revolutionary ideals. I’m tired of wasting horses for the sake of the master. We need to make serious changes to how we perceive ourselves within this system, or we might as well just bow out now.

jose, who’s always willing to give the right opinion if given the right question …

p.s. – I would make this sound more like an article, but frankly, I’m none of my buddies on my blogroll ;-).

p.p.s. – I’m not bitter, but annoyed by the constant complacency many of us educators succumb to.