An Open Letter to Parents of Elementary Students:
The end of the school year is upon us. It is time for me to return your child to you. Please know that I did my very best to ensure that your child had a quality first grade experience in spite of all the mandates and curriculum requirements. I tried to put some fun into our learning. I tried to celebrate each day and the uniqueness of each child. I used my experience and education about developmentally appropriate education and child development to help your child learn. I have given them all that I had to give.
And yet, I feel as though it was not enough. For you see, at the end of this school year, while I am completely out of my special lined paper, erasers, pencils and reading logs; I still have an abundance of glue sticks, colored paper and crayons. What that tells me is, that although the children produced a large amount of writing and consumed a lot of books, we did not do nearly enough crafts and projects. For that, parents, I apologize. We did not sing enough songs, read enough poetry and make enough paper and glitter creations. We should have.
I started the year knowing that I had 180 math lessons to teach in 180 days, 800 or more "steps" to complete in reading, quarterly reading assessments, daily reading assessments, 300-500 power words to introduce, 6 Domains to download, master, teach and assess, three genres of writing to instruct and assess, P.E. minutes to provide, health lessons to teach, science and social studies concepts and vocabulary to instruct, and many other academic standards and learning targets to write, refer to, and evaluate. Along the way, I slipped in a few crafts, a little recess here and there, a couple dozen lunch bunches and some read alouds just for fun. But it was not enough.
While the children gained stamina, reading ability, decoding skills and math fluency, they lost fine motor growth, social skills and the ability to self-regulate as every minute was planned and executed. My pride swells for the growth they achieved, while my heart weeps for the childhood they lost. I worried for them constantly, as I worried for me. Would they be able to reach the benchmarks I set for them back in September? Would they grow enough so that I could continue to be rated highly effective? Would I complete the math program in spite of knowing that they needed more time to master the work as I plowed ahead on the pacing schedule? Would they look back on first grade as a happy experience or would they wonder why they have so little in their memory box from that year?
Common Core, state and district mandates, standardized testing and education reformers are stealing our children's childhood. We have replaced words like playtime, circle time, centers, math games, hands on learning, creativity and teacher made materials with words like rigor, grit, tenacity, stamina, fidelity, efficacy and k-12 marketplace . Our children are no longer pupils, they are data points. We are drowning in data instead of in glitter.
Parents, please know that I tried to fight for your child's school experience. I wrote, I blogged, I spoke and I posted. I cried. A lot. I put my reputation on the line. I made friends and I made enemies. My colleagues and I are torn between loving being teachers and being forced to teach materials and content that we know is not what your child needs right now. We are caught between wanting to do what is right and needing to keep our jobs. We keep hoping for a White Knight to come to the rescue, but all we seem to have right now is the Dark Overlord of Data and Standards.
So, moms and dads, as your little ones come home to you at the end of the school year, and the summer stretches before you, please make me a promise: Promise me that you will let your little one be little this summer. Let your child play outside, run, swim, bike, play hide and seek, hopscotch, tag and Red Rover. On rainy days, get out that playdough, make cookies, paint, draw, color and glitter something. Play board games and tell stories. Put away the ipad, the review book and the math packets. Talk. Giggle. Tell jokes and stories. Give your child back his/her childhood for the next 8 weeks, because I promise you.... in September, the school day will be longer, the curriculum will be more rigorous, the expectations will be greater, and the homework will be harder. Please let them be children.