Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Had to share this link - it's a great dissection of the ways teacher's unions have been unfairly targeted for blame in the current fight over school quality. I agree that this is important to consider - but think that the underlying problem goes deeper, into the racism that our country continues to struggle with, particularly as our schools continue to resegregate. (When I first came to my present school, I sent holiday presents to a class that was not yet familiar with me and the students asked who had given them. The teacher replied that I was the woman who came to help a certain student. One child asked, "Oh, that light-skinned lady?" The teacher replied that when someone is as light as I am, they are usually called white. The students were upset on my behalf that I was called white.)

Not to mention the inherant classism in high stakes testing. It's been shown over and over again that what these tests reveal with nearly pinpoint accuracy is the educational level of the parents. So teachers in high needs schools are nearly automatically labelled as underperforming. I mean, teachers who serve in schools like mine are at a disadvantage in all these measures of performance simply because we have kids coming in at the Kindergarten level who don't already know the alphabet song, or how to count to ten, or any of those other things most children in more prosperous neighborhoods get before they're 3. We have children who are homeless, who have 1 parent, who are dealing with the vindictive war on the poor that this nation has been waging since Reagan.

And we work to overcome those disadvantages, and the further disadvantages of a lack of exposure. When our primary classes go on the annual field trip to the zoo, I gather a group of children around me on the bus and talk about the Potomac, the construction sites we pass, the Capitol dome, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and anything else I can possibly see that would interest them in learning - we even wave hello as we pass the downtown NASA headquarters.

But what do I know? I'm just another teacher who spends more than she probably should on furnishing my school (seriously, that chair at my desk? I bought it. The bookshelf filled with high-interest books? I bought the books and the bookshelf. How about the plastic tub thing that organizes the reading materials for my classes? Yep, bought that too. Even the set of round green rugs I use for defining an area for my more active children to get up and move around while they learn.)

Not to mention office supplies - pens, paper, dry erase markers, dry erase lap boards, pencils, erasers, pencil grips, pencil trays, grading stickers, sticky notepads both for my use and the students' use, binders, binder clips, magnets...

And then there are the things I need as a special educator, the specialized pencil grips for correcting a tendency to "fist grip" the pencil, the small stuffed animals and plastic dinosaurs for use as "study buddies", to keep distractable students on task, the relaxation balls to help students build grip strength and to have a tactile reinforcement while they work. And no, the county doesn't pay for that, either.

Oh, yeah, and stuff like "star student" erasers, scratch n' sniff stickers, pencils with holographic foil, my collection of McDonald's happy meal toys, the spoils of trips to the dollar store toy aisle, and the plastic poppers, silly putty, and dinosaur eggs I buy online. Or the snacks I buy so my kids won't be taking the standardized tests hungry.

Or the hours and days of unpaid overtime I spend tutoring kids, lesson planning, putting up bulletin boards, exposing the kids to new stuff like gardening, origami, and crochet. And teachers are the problem with schools?



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