Sunday, November 20, 2011

I Worry About Students Like Me

For a long time now, I've been waiting for a revolution in education.  I'm talking full fledged anarchy, followed by a rebuilding from the ground up.  I'm still waiting.

Today's so called ed reformers toss around words like creativity and innovation, but I worry that this year's "new math" still favors the compliant pleasers  in our classrooms: those students who come to school every day, ask few questions and who figure out, early on, that school is almost always a product over process game.  This, while at the same time, offering few, if any, paths to success for students who don't come to school, who challenge the status-quo, who behave badly and/or who simply don't fit into the rows we create for them.

I worry about these students because I was one of them.  My own school story is one of poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness and academic failure.  I know now that, because they were a part of mine, these things were also a part of my teachers' stories.  However, as challenging as school was for me and, conversely, as I was for it, I worry that today's climate of high stakes testing is even more toxic for kids like me.

I often give the credit for the  fact that I even graduated from high school to my 10th grade English teacher - a woman who simply refused to let me fail.  Although I can't remember a single task she assigned me, or even what skill deficits she was determined to fix, I do know that hers was the first classroom where I felt I deserved a place at the learning table. She didn't make me feel like the smartest kid in class, but she made it okay not to be that kid.  To me, this is the saddest part of my story - or at least the part that causes me the most worry- because it makes me wonder about all the other kids whose paths never cross with that teacher. 

Don't get me wrong, there are lots of great teachers out there. I've had to the privilege to work with a host of educators who both inspire and challenge me.  For these teachers, teaching is more than just a passion, it's a calling - in every sense of the word.  And I know that many in this group see teaching, as I do, as the repayment of the debt they owe the person who saved them. But for every great teacher there are countless more students like me.

And I worry about them.


  1. This touches me. Thank you for sharing your heart & your thoughts! So proud of you!

  2. The revolution and wholesale rebuilding? It's not going to come. I have done my best to become the boat-rocker I suppose I was probably meant to be, but I'm in that boat alone. THIS (not the time, not the five preps, not the refusal to admit that we are working for little more than a living wage)is the reason I will be leaving education ASAP. Because we are no longer about kids, we are about data. (Incidentally, everyone who has had the priviledge and pleasure of working with you is glad that you are one of us. Keep fighting the good fight!)

  3. Gwyneth - not sure if this fits into your blogging tips, but sometimes you just have to work through what's bubbling inside. That said, your thumbs up means a lot to me!

    Kirby - I love data, but then it's not used to truly impact learning and build paths to success for ALL students, I struggle to see the point. Currently, so much of the data we collect I'd used for punitive purposes, it seems like a wasted opportunity. Anyway, I refuse to give up. If Jonothan Kozol can keep going, so can I!

  4. Thank you for this. It is so important for me as an educator and a librarian what many of my students are going through. Often the library is the only safe place they have.

    As for a revolution - it is coming. I truly believe that.

  5. Thank you, Sarah! I really hope you are right. Keep fighting the good fight, girl!

  6. The most compelling (and I would argue important) stories are the ones cut from the heart. That's the revolution: permission to not only tell those stories, but TO BE those stories at a place we call school.

    Adding a 'new' x program does nothing to alter whose voice matters and whose does not. Whose voice gets uttered, and who is silent and so on.

    Excellent post. I have added this blog to my revised blog roll.


  7. Kudos to the inner ninja library girl inside!

  8. Thanks so much for this blog....sort of puts things into perspective for me (again)....keep up the good work!