So wrote Gerald J. Conti, who taught for 40 years, the last 27 in the high school from which he is taking retirement at the end of this school year.
You can - no, you SHOULD - read the entire letter, which appears here at the Answer Sheet blog at the Washington Post. Over the past few years words like those offered by Conti have become ever more common from the lips and the keyboards of experienced teachers.
Allow me to offer two more selections from Conti beneath the fold.
My profession is being demeaned by a pervasive atmosphere of distrust, dictating that teachers cannot be permitted to develop and administer their own quizzes and tests (now titled as generic “assessments”) or grade their own students’ examinations. The development of plans, choice of lessons and the materials to be employed are increasingly expected to be common to all teachers in a given subject. This approach not only strangles creativity, it smothers the development of critical thinking in our students and assumes a one-size-fits-all mentality more appropriate to the assembly line than to the classroom. Teacher planning time has also now been so greatly eroded by a constant need to “prove up” our worth to the tyranny of APPR (through the submission of plans, materials and “artifacts” from our teaching) that there is little time for us to carefully critique student work, engage in informal intellectual discussions with our students and colleagues, or conduct research and seek personal improvement through independent study. We have become increasingly evaluation and not knowledge driven. Process has become our most important product, to twist a phrase from corporate America, which seems doubly appropriate to this case.Please note especially the ideas of strangling creativity, assuming a one-size-fits-all mentality which cheats our students, loss of time to give appropriate feedback to students, a critical part of the teaching process, particularly when we want to help them improve their writing, their research, their thinking.
Evaluation over knowledge
and then this, which is for those of us of a certain age a parody of a famous line from GE: Process has become our most important product
The original that Progress is our most important product, was something we would hear each Sunday on the GE College Bowl, moderated by Allen Ludden.
We have been travelling this "reform" route at least since 1983. It has not work. So we do more of it.
We claim students are not performing well enough, so our response is to raise the bar higher and then we are surprised when even more fail or drop out? Well, did we even provide them the appropriate support to reach the previous targets? And if not, why should we be surprised when we gain no more success from even more of the same?
Oh wait, Pearson - a British company - is making a lot of money.
Rupert Murdoch has initiatives that are making money.
Bill Gates is urging more use of computers so solve our problems - I wonder why?
Lots of people are benefiting.
Who is not are our students.
Most of us who teach chose that path to make a difference. In return we sacrificed income, time and other things. Now we are going to be punished and pushed out for our experience. We in some cases are denied benefits including pensions we were promised in lieu of higher salaries. We are targeted, demeaned, belittled, and blamed.
I retired in June, taking a buyout. In a two year period 13 senior faculty members left our school. It was a loss of institutional memory and culture as well as of our specific skills. The school is still good, but it is not the same.
Perhaps that is what the reformers want, to reshape schools in an image that will not only not be recognizable, but will be more subject to their machinations, which may lead to profits for some and has already led to exorbitant salaries and other forms of compensation for many who have yet to demonstrate they give any benefit to the students.
The students. Those we should SERVE.
The students. No there to be treated like widgets without regard for their interests and passions.
The students. Who maybe should be considered as something more than fodder for corporations to have a compliant workforce where there are so many trained for the few what are now good-paying jobs that salaries and benefits can continue to be depressed and suppressed.
But you have heard all that and more from me before.
Let me let Conti have the last words, words with which many of us in public education will find ourselves in agreement:
For the last decade or so, I have had two signs hanging above the blackboard at the front of my classroom, they read, “Words Matter” and “Ideas Matter”. While I still believe these simple statements to be true, I don’t feel that those currently driving public education have any inkling of what they mean.