Thursday, April 23, 2015

Stand up. Speak Out. Fight Back

I know I have flooded my friends' facebook newsfeed with many articles and links about Common Core and Standardized Testing. I'm sure I have worn out my welcome with many of you. However, I must say that this is an issue that I feel very passionate about. I entered teaching in my mid-late 20's after working in a few other professions (retail, volunteer coordinator, restaurant, etc). I was passionate about my "calling" as I felt that I was meant to be a teacher. 

My first years were spent in Second Grade and then I was placed in a First Grade. I have made First Grade my home since 1996. In the 18+ years that I have taught First grade, I have seen many changes. Early on, we taught Whole Language, then came a more balanced thematic approach. My students and I explored learning through themes, hands-on activities, and play balanced with developmentally appropriate school assignments and a lot of joy. 

Then came NCLB. That seemed more targeted to 4th-8th grade and still we enjoyed learning and creating in a developmentally appropriate way. We used reams of construction paper, gallons of paint and glue, glitter, paper with red & blue lines so we knew where to write, sentence strips, big books, and free play. NCLB demanded "disaggregation" of scores and we had literacy blocks and math blocks and writing workshops. And yet, we played on and learned and laughed and smiled. First grade was fun and I loved everyday of my job. 

Next came Race to the Top... also known as NCLB on steroids. And curriculum became more and more demanding. Free play was now only 3 days a week, student behaviors became more challenging as developmentally inappropriate demands and expectations were placed on my students by people who had no business writing curriculum, standards and policies. 

Now, we have APPR, which ties students scores to teacher evaluations, developmentally inappropriate curriculum and expectations, multi-lingual classrooms, high poverty rates and stressed out kids and teachers. I no longer go through reams of construction paper as there is no time for crafts. I haven't bought glitter in 3 years, nor glitter glue. My first graders are expected to write essays that support their opinions (without handwriting instruction -- no time for that), create research projects and work out complicated word problems. I spend hours searching the internet for activities that align to common core that will bridge the gap between the outrageous garbage that is EngageNY and CC and what I know works with kids. Free play is once a week on a Friday afternoon. Everyday, we try to find moments of joy (cosmic yoga, 30 second dance parties, funny stories in place of non-fiction text...shhhh... don't tell). 

And what is the point of this rant, you ask? The point is that our Federal Gov't and State Gov't and Big Corporations (Pearson, Microsoft, Wal-mart, et al) are systematically destroying public education. And we are letting them. By being silent, we are being complacent. By not fighting back, we are allowing them to dismantle one of the best things about our country... Public education for all children. We are allowing them to destroy childhood by not valuing developmentally appropriate instruction and expectations. So even if you don't have children in school, please take the time to read and to become aware of what is happening in our country. It is not on the news. The propaganda is strong, so don't be swayed. STAND UP. SPEAK OUT. FIGHT BACK. For our children and our childrens' children. Thank you.

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