This weeks’ readings were focused upon the book Tested by Linda Perlstein. I’ve never read any of her books before, but after the short venture into her world, I think that I’ll be going there again. She has a knack for bringing the reader into the lives of those that she describes in her writings, and makes the people seem like more than simply characters in a piece of non-fiction literature. Somehow, she adds a little compassion to the characters, something that all good non-fiction narratives seem to do, and engages the reader on their level.
Hey, there’s that connection thing again. You’ve got to connect with someone to engage them. It’s human nature. We do it throughout our lives, and in order to teach successfully, we must practice it in our craft. This is kind of my soapbox.
Back to the book. I’m sure that if you’re reading this, you’re familiar with the book, you know that it’s set in an elementary school called Tyler Heights located in Maryland. The school is run down, has many Title I kids, and has it’s share of problems, including the high test scores that the principal, Tina McKnight, was able to drive the kids to achieve the last school year. The school was recognized as one of the most improved in the state, but that in turn brings along extremely great pressure to repeat the performance and actually to top the performance of last year’s students.
What I find really interesting so far is the humanistic side of the story being told, from the standpoint of the new teachers that are dealing with the situation that they have gotten themselves into. While many are driven and determined to make a difference, as I think we all are at this point in our cohort lives, we see the questioning that they start to do when confronted by the realities of kids not listening to their direction, parents not helping when it comes to supporting their efforts, and the helpless feelings that they feel in their new careers.
I’m only in three chapters, so I’m not sure of how the story ends. The book brings up serious questions about mandatory testing due to the No Child Left Behind laws, and many other things that one wonders about when engaging a path to becoming an educator.
There was one sentence in particular that stuck out for me. She said something to the effect that “many of the teachers could converse very well with kids but when faced with adults they became a little awkward”. I’ve noticed that about many of the teachers that I’ve worked with during my service learning time, and with the teachers that my kids have had recently. One of the best teachers that I’ve ever met, Mr. V., who was a Master Teacher for years taught my son Cole for a while before retiring for health reasons recently. I was lucky enough to work with him for a few months and got to know him a little better, but saw how flustered he would get when he would have to do any sort of parent’s night. Maybe it was because he felt like he was being put under a microscope or something? Not sure. I suppose I can understand. I can feel like that at times.
The question of teaching kids to pass a test seems to me like a way to teach kids to figure out a way to get through school without learning what is really important. It seems like we’re teaching them how to test, rather than giving them a real education. I want my kids to understand the difference between meiosis and mitosis, and know what each really is, rather than simply being able to determine what answer fits best.
In teaching for the test, we’re also losing other ‘non essential’ programs. It’s no secret that music, art and drama programs are all being cut to make more time to study for (insert YOUR state’s federally mandated test here). If we lose the arts, we lose some of our culture, and is it really all right to do that? I’m not fine with that. Kids need art, they need to have ways to express their creativity.
There’s got to be a better way to measure progress. I wish I had all of the answers. I just don’t right now.
The cohort is really starting to take a life of its’ own. The emails are flying rampantly. It’s good to have involvement like that. Good to have such a vibrant, vocal group. Seems like everyone here genuinely is engaged, something that’s refreshing. I haven’t seen that in quite some time. Unlike undergrad classes, people are here because they want to be here, there’s a difference. It’s nice.
Looking forward to class this week. I’m eager to discuss what Ayers says in his first chapter. See you there-