Trading Places

I feel like Paul Revere. With the big break rapidly approaching, I want to run up and down the halls screaming, “Christmas Break is coming! Christmas Break is coming!!” In truth, this is such a looked toward time in the life of a teacher. Especially with a new addition to the family, I am looking forward to some downtime, and a chance to do some reflections on this year. In spots it has been tough, but never unbearable. I can also thank God that I still walk into my career

everyday with the same burning desire to make a difference in the lives of a student. Just one per day. Some days I fail miserably, but others, I just know that I have created some kind of spark.

If Santa could bring me one thing this year, and I say that just for entertainment value, it would be that all of the legislators who keep trying to force educators to do and be cookie cutter drones in the classroom would be required to spend just ONE week in a classroom. One day is too short, and one month might render them completely unable to function. One week in a classroom is all that I am asking. The debate on Common Core and pay for performance rages on around us, while in the classroom, we struggle to create a utopia where kids can learn, feel safe, and feel loved. And while I’m not really asking them to change their minds about their legislation, what I AM asking, is that they take a moment to consider the fate of students that they have never met, by doing a job that they probably have never done for any considerable amounts of time.

I wonder how they would deal with the student who just can’t sit still to save his life? Or how about the student who has a hard family life, thus she can’t really show all that she knows, because nobody has convinced her that she knows anything. Or what about the student who cuts himself because his peers tease him at lunch and mercilessly play games at his expense in the hallways between classes? How would they interact with the student who constantly smells horrible, because his family can’t afford something as simple as soap? Is there legislation for that? How can you convince those students to even care about a test, when their lives are hanging in the balance? And furthermore, how can they expect the teachers to be held accountable for cookie cutter lesson plans, when real life intervenes more often than not?

And this is not an excuse. We teachers sign up for this when we sign our contracts. We essentially say that come hell or high water, we will instill education into our kids. We hold ourselves and our students to a level of accountability that sometimes seems unfair in the grand scheme of things. What I AM saying is that so much in school depends not on the lesson plan or instructional design. So much of what happens in a classroom on a daily basis is predicated upon a teacher being able to assess what a child needs in that moment! When is the right time to shut down the lesson, even when it is necessary, in order to address shifty eyes and stares, or crying eyes and screaming voices? Common Core does not address that. Pay for Performance does not address that.

I’m not asking for an “out”. I am asking for understanding and the consideration that what those in legislating “thinks” happens in a classroom may not actually be what really goes on. Furthermore, there needs to be some reality included in all of the things that come down and affect how well I can facilitate my classroom. We teach because we love our students, but I fear that with so much outside pressure coming this way, the best teachers the world has ever seen may never even enter the field.

And that would be the biggest shame of them all.

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