School is evil

by aquietfancy

No, not really. School is the best. But here I am, up at 3:30, and still only 3.61 (yeah, I’m counting to the second decimal) pages into my thesis. I’ll quit for the night at 4.00.

So, I promised a blog on teachers. I’ve been thinking about teachers a lot. So much I’m starting to really consider becoming one. And I’m going to make a vow now that I will never make a student write a paper over 3.50 pages (just kidding, make ’em sweat).

The value-added assessment of teachers that has been taking root in New York has me thinking twice about this field, though. And isn’t that awful? (At this point I should brag about how smart and fantastic I am that you should want me teaching your kids, but it really wouldn’t be true.) That this system might scare away the young people with a passion for teaching, kids, and social justice. And those aren’t three separate variables (ooo, thesis nomenclature). Teachers should be the heart of social justice. Higher test scores may come out of social justice, but they definitely will not cause it.

The budget woes of the last few years have stricken everyone, but it’s the younger generations that are being hit the hardest. And when cuts are made to education, it is the children in the lowest income neighborhoods that are hurt the worst, those whose schools were suffering long before 2007.

The first priority of our schools must be to provide a place of safety and care for students. That means reinstating afterschool where it has been cut and adding mentor programs for children whose parents work long hours or cannot be there for them. It means guaranteeing that children have someone caring for their needs outside of the classroom. It means providing healthy breakfast and lunch for those students whose families cannot afford to provide necessities. It means making sure that teachers make sure to put a student’s well-being before test scores, ensuring that someone is aware of their relationship with their family and peers. Teachers are not only educators, but they are also daytime caretakers. They must be observant of everything a child is going through, from physical to emotional health. The escalation of violence we have seen in schools in the last few years shows just how sidetracked schools have become. Why do people not see these troubled kids slipping through the cracks, alone and desperate?

Though no one really wants to admit it, we must put our students first and their “education” second. Learning goes hand in hand with stability and care. Teaching to the test gets the process backwards. The teacher’s job should be make learning engaging and safe. And to make this happen, teachers must care about more than their own test score.

(I am not, by the way, advocating that teachers not be assessed. But there has to be a better, less fallible way.)

I fear for the teachers in New York who have achieved the first step of the social justice process, but it’s the kids who are losing good teachers that I am really scared for.