We have to cover the material rapidly--
we have a state test in May.
So what do I do? I fly through material. I shorten labs. I guide students through discussions with a machete, slicing down errant thoughts for the sake of time.
Yes, I know kids are the masters of the sidestep, and can take a tangent from Kansas to Oz, but a good teacher can usually tell the difference between a stall move and a thoughtful (but flawed) discussion point.
The result? My version of the Race to the Top guarantees that my lambs will know less of a whole lot more.
Our latest superintendent left a couple of months ago to go back home after cutting his teeth here. I don't get too involved with the machinations of administration--no sense vibrating over things I cannot control--but he said something at the beginning of the year that disturbed me, and still does.
He essentially announced that no matter what we think, no matter what our opinion of the state testing, no matter how illogical it is to expect 100% compliance with NCLB by 2014, we must do the things we must do to increase our scores because that's what the government mandates.
I am sure others have heard similar speeches in their districts.
That bothers me. A lot.
If we truly believe we are doing our kids a disservice by teaching to a test that I doubt most U.S. Senators could pass (or even, alas, a few teachers), why are we complicit?
Here in New Jersey, teachers do not work for the state, nor do we work for the Feds--we work for our local Boards of Education, and we're paid by the folks who live in the town where we teach.
If I am not doing what is in the best interests of the children of the citizens of Bloomfield, I had better have a good reason.
We can fairly argue, Mr. Superintendent, whether striving towards meeting NCLB is in our children's best interests. We can debate whether losing a small percentage of our funding will cripple our school system any more than the mindless pursuit of a mythical measurable standard.
What we should not tolerate, however, is blind acceptance of a flawed law using logic that smacks of Befehl ist Befehl.
Farmer wielding a machete photo from the National Archives.