Monday, October 19, 2015

An Awesome Responsibility

As an Elementary School teacher, one of my many daily duties is Bus Duty.  EVERY DAY.  In all kinds of weather.  It's crazy, loud, chaotic, semi-organized and overwhelming.  As a primary grade teacher, I have to be in three places at once:  escorting my walkers to their parents out the backdoor, picking up kindergartners for my bus line at the opposite end of the school and bringing them to the bus line even further away and supervising the bus line in a totally separate location.  It's fast and furious. And everyday, as we escort these children out the doors to waiting parents and to buses, I am awestruck at what is happening.  You see, it really drives home what we as teachers are doing.

When students arrive in the morning, we are at our doorways or in our rooms and we attend to our assigned students (also known as "our kids"), but at the end of the day, we are in charge of ALL the kids.  When you see the kids coming out the doors, chatting with each other, greeting or saying goodbye to teachers and sometimes hugging teachers, you realize what an amazing place a public school is.

I work in an increasingly diverse school.  Every year we get more children who are immigrants or refugees and every year our poverty level grows as more families struggle.  These children are OURS.  At bus duty you see the ratio of students to adults.  You see how much they love their teachers and how much the teachers care about these kids.  You also see what an awesome responsibility it is to have these children in our care.  These children are someone's babies.  These children have been entrusted to us, for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 10 months a year.  These children's parents have trusted us enough to send us what they cherish the most.  They trust that we are not only educating their children, but also protecting them, advocating for them and loving them.

Teachers know this.  Those of us who are parents are entrusting our babies to teachers too while we take care of other peoples' children.  We know how powerful this is.  This is why, although we love what we do and we love our students, our hearts are quietly breaking.  Teachers understand what education reformers and many administrators and State Education officials do not.  We understand that these beautiful children are not scores, data points or part of some bizarre VAM formula.  We know that rigor and grit have no place in classrooms.  We know that these children are so much more than test scores, rankings and data.  We know that we are not in education to help children prepare for tests or non-existent or yet to exist "college and career readiness".  What we know is that we are growing people, humans, citizens of our nation and our world.  Along with  teaching the curriculum, we are teaching children to be kind, to love, to learn, to be curious, to question and to become better people.

It is breaking our hearts that these children, who trust us and whose parents trust us, are being used as weapons against us.  Their scores determine our "effectiveness".  Scores on tests that are poorly designed and mean nothing.  Scores that are derived through some combination of voodoo magic, fairy dust and crystal balls.  Scores whose cut scores are changed and manipulated to create a narrative that our schools are failing.

Let me tell you, our schools are not failing.  Our schools are thriving, and thriving in spite of budget cuts, cut scores, terribly designed curriculum, nonsensical mandates and outrageous expectations.  Our schools are thriving because they are staffed by teachers who know what is important.  Our schools are thriving because in spite of it all, the teachers who work in our public schools accept and love all the children who walk in and out of our doors every day.

Update:  This post was reblogged by Diane Ravitch and the Buffalo News!