(Disclaimer 1: Opinions are my own, though I suspect –okay, I know–many teachers and parents agree, and in no way are intended to represent the opinions or stances of my employers and other related entities)
This week, I have carried a crying child out of a classroom. I have rubbed a brave and sobbing boy’s back. I have led a pre-meltdown boy out of the classroom. I have seen chairs thrown, little girls crying under tables, and pencil tips broken in the hopes of Just. Making. It. Stop. It is only Wednesday and my third day of proctoring the week-long standardized test being given to the Primary students where I work. The class I’m working with? KINDERGARTEN. If these kids weren’t under the nurturing care of the dedicated staff at my school (an oasis in the inner city), all of us doing our best to just get them through this, I don’t know what this week would be like for them.
WAKE UP, and get on the phone, people. Tell them to stop this. No profit, no stock option, no lobbyist is worth even one child sobbing while he bravely tries to fill in tiny bubbles that his little hands don’t yet even have the fine-motor development to do. Choosing answers to questions he doesn’t understand because his 60 month-old brain isn’t ready to comprehend. Feeling like a failure because for all our attempts to comfort, a 5 year-old child doesn’t have the capacity to get what “it’s okay if you don’t know the answer, it’s totally okay-if you don’t know the answer, you can guess and that’s fine! We love you, you’re wonderful and you’re just as smart as you should be today!”- means. They see and hear things they don’t understand, know they’re getting it wrong, and they start to feel worthless.
I have a question. A lot of us have been screaming “FOUL!” for more than 15 years. We’ve given you the phone numbers of your legislators, even simple links where all you had to do is click and write them an email. We’ve written, we’ve called, we’ve sent emails . Why haven’t you?
We helped you register to vote. We offered to take you to the polls. We gave you a link to request your vote-by-mail ballot. We voted. Why didn’t you?
We go to candidates’ web pages and find out where they stand on testing. We’ve flat-out TOLD you, with the paper trail included, how Jeb is involved with this with his Foundation for Florida’s Future. We’ve translated the double-speak so you’d know what these candidates really mean. We’ve told you FIRSTHAND stories of how the voucher debacle has ruined the education of so many children-I know some students who lost a year of their lives to schools which taught them nothing but were thrilled to take those funds. I could give you names of the actual children (Disclaimer 2: but of course I won’t give you the names) because I know them, I’ve taught them, and seen them when they’ve come back to us after their voucher foray, having made negative learning gains in a year. Do you know what negative learning gains are? Do you know that this scheme is crushing children of poverty? Or is it that ‘those’ kids-meh, whatever. Why won’t you check out the pages of candidates and make informed decisions over party ones? (Disclaimer 3: this rant has nothing to do with party bashing so untwist the panties)(Disclaimer 4: yes, I know many of you parents have been fighting the good fight already; for you, the “why didn’t you” is strictly rhetorical).
Some of you still think it’s the teachers and the districts that are perpetuating this. Nope. It’s mandated by our states, our legislators, and some funding for Education from the Federal government even relies upon our compliance.
There was about 15% voter turnout for the Primary in my town. Why? You don’t even have to get off your couch to vote anymore. You can ask your kid to put the dang thing in a mailbox. I promise to bring you a stamp (the first 100 people who ask-teacher’s salary you know) myself if asking the clerk at Publix or 7-11 is too much trouble.
There need to be more voices than teachers’ shouting “Enough!” We’ve been standing up for your children through every bit of this mess, all the while being labeled by the media and profiteers: union thugs, whiners, workers who don’t want accountability (no, we just know what authentic accountability LOOKS like, and have always been doing it!), complainers, etc. We were strong enough and courageous enough to make the noise through all that mud-slinging, because we are dedicated to educating your children using actual Best Practices. For years we’ve been protesting the misuse of testing. Now it’s your turn. It’s easier now because it’s au courant to bemoan the standardized testing culture. Picture YOUR 5 year-old, tears streaming down his face, listening as hard as he’s able, and, knowing he doesn’t have the answer, bravely picking a bubble to fill in and doing his best to stay within the circle.
Do something. You can start by following the links in the comments below; I’ve made it easy for you to find your legislator.
Peace, friends. The kids deserve it.