Monday, August 26, 2013

The freedom of absurdity

Back when we still stratified classes at my school, I loved teaching "low level" freshmen--despite the occasional behavioral issues (the rare fight and even rarer fire under a student's desk), I got to teach more science as science than in any other class because, well, no one outside the classroom really cared what happened inside.

The less administrators heard from these classes, the better. No blood, no write-ups, no problem.

Freed from the crippling boundaries posed by standardized tests, I got to take the kids wherever the problems took us. Armed with safety glasses, and just enough sense to keep us outside of the Health Office, we pushed boundaries and solved problems. (Here's a dirty little secret--most of my students who grow up poor have a short lifetime's worth of solving real problems. It's not lack of problem-solving abilities holding them back in school.)

With the new evaluation system kicking into place, where part of my job security depends on how my students do on state testing that has little or nothing to do with science, where correlation now becomes causation, absurdity reigns.

Les Songes Drolatiques De Pantagruel

Here's how you deal with absurdity: you don't.

Until reality creeps back into education, I will happily teach students what reality means.

Do I fear the scores? Of course I do. I fear death, too. Until I can control either of them, though, acting on that fear is foolish.

Puts a new spin on live and learn....


cope said...

Drat, you gave away my classroom, nod, turn in the minimum necessary paperwork and teach the way you know you do the most good.

I find it ironic that (at least for now), I am in the good graces of my administration and looked at as one of the "good" teachers. I have not bought into one single aspect of the efforts at "reform" and worry naught that test scores of students I do not teach or students of mine who only take high-stakes tests in other courses than mine will cost me my job.

At this time, the state of Florida has yet to implement any kind of merit pay (we've had but 1 small pay raise in the last 4 or 5 years) and when the time comes where I am to choose between keeping my PSC (professional services contract, elsewhere known as tenure) and hopping on the merit pay gravy train, it's gonna be PSC all the way, baby.

It might be because I am near the end of this career and don't have to worry about the same things the teachers hired in the last 3 years worry about (the elimination of the PSC in particular). I can't imagine being a teacher in my 25th year (as I am) and still having to worry year to year whether or not I will have a job but unless there is a great sea change, this is the fate of those new hires.

Anyway, I love the teaching part of my job. I got to school extra early today to set up two telescopes before school. I showed students Jupiter with it's dark belts and 4 Galilean satellites in the big (6") scope and the waning gibbous moon in the smaller (4") one. I eventually put a digital imager on the small scope and played its image through a laptop so many could watch at the same time. Few were the students who did not emit some audible note of surprise or wonder when they took a look.

By the time I was done and had hauled everything back into my room, my nice clean teacher shirt was wringing wet with sweat. I grubbed around and found a T-shirt I earned at a summer institute a couple of years ago and had to endure the endless questions about my choice of attire. Worth it, it was, however.

So it goes...

noyes said...

Living in NC, I also fear being evaluated by my test scores when I fail to cover all of the content because we spent more time learning in my class. It's nice to know I'm not the only one.

John Spencer said...

"Here's a dirty little secret--most of my students who grow up poor have a short lifetime's worth of solving real problems. It's not lack of problem-solving abilities holding them back in school."

The scary reality is that many of the poorest kids have never had the chance to solve problems in school, though. They take tests. They take practice tests. They take study guides for the practice tests for the benchmark test for the high-stakes test. Then they take notes for the study guide.

They take a lot.

It's no wonder they sometimes push back.