OK, so my contempt isn't really new. In fact, I've held them in contempt for virtually all of my two decades in the classroom.
But I am nearly as contemptuous of the dialogue about so-called education reform, even amongst progressives and people who label themselves as "pro-education". Teaching is not a simple profession and the Americans we graduate are even more complex. No ham-handed, short-sighted reform born in the state or national legislatures, at parents' kitchen tables or in agenda-driven school boards across the nation can effectively address the issues of student achievement or effective teaching.
The effort to brand teachers ineffective according to some inadequate formula, and to end their teacher tenure based on that, is foolish at best, and criminal at worst. But if the laws are passed, if the deed is done, then I am taking the state to court, not to overturn the laws, but to get my students back. Yes, you heard me right, to get my students back. More below the fold as I explain.
Steve Singiser's column today is right on point, and I agree with him 100%. I just think the point I am making here is important, and absent from his column.
Besides the inherent invalidity of test scores and grades as measures of student achievement, and therefore the impossibility of evaluating teachers effectively based on those benchmarks, no one seems to realize, consider or much less talk about the reality that I DO NOT HAVE UNIMPEDED ACCESS TO MY STUDENTS.
I haven't for years. My classroom is interrupted for EVERYTHING, and the integrity of the teaching day is often the lowest priority. The senior class is meeting about prom? TAKE 'EM OUT. Pep assemblies? Take 'em out. Athletic competitions that are road games? Take 'em out. Doctor's appointments, family trips, meetings with the Athletic Director, the counselor, the Assistant Principal? Take 'em out.
I lose students every day, but more importantly, I lose time. Time without which I cannot dependably make them successful students.
Parents need to get a message to their kid? INTERRUPT CLASS. Is their lunch in the office to be picked up? Interrupt class. Flowers from their boyfriend? Interrupt class. Do they have an appointment in the afternoon? Then send the note in and interrupt class. Does a club adviser need to meet with them at lunch? Call on my phone and interrupt class.
(For this very reason, I disconnected my classroom telephone and put it in my refrigerator for the past five days. Hopefully it's broken. Yes, in my desperation to restore some integrity to my class period, I have been reduced to petulant guerrilla warfare.)
Apparently, many people have forgotten that the classroom is why the school exists. It is the primary reason students are there, and yet somehow, it is the lowest priority in the school day. Somehow the tests over material we are or are not allowed the time to teach them is still considered the benchmark of our success or failure as educators, and in the end, perhaps our employment.
I'm not just venting, and this isn't just a local issue. In my work for The College Board and The Holocaust Education Foundation I have led workshops for teachers all across the western US, and I hear the same frustrations mentioned time and again, in addition to the typical concerns about pay and benefit cuts, no money for the classroom, crumbling facilities, lax discipline, administrative neglect or incompetence, parents given run of the school, and yes, those blessed reform movements that ultimately get de-funded and axed as soon as they are fiscally inconvenient - the time we have with our students is inadequate, it is not sacred, and it is not respected.
And some people still think it is actually legitimate to tell anyone they are an ineffective teacher when we don't even have regular, uninterrupted access to our students? And our CONTINUED EMPLOYMENT should be contingent upon it?
If you still somehow answer yes, then I have two things to say to you:
1) You don't know what you're talking about.
2) Leave us alone.
We are the trained professionals, and we know what we're doing. The best possible things a citizen or our government can do for us in the schools is to give us back our students, restore our funding, and stay out of our way.
Then we will give you the student success you seek. You have to admit, it's a formula for school reform that no one's ever dared to attempt.
5:36 PM PT: Update: Turns out my phone actually is broken. Score one for the good guys.