Thursday, July 14, 2011

Because They Know Everything

That's why the state has designed an observation rubric that sounds like it comes directly from the Gates Foundation. For teachers to be highly effective, every student must participate. That's every one of your 34 students, or if you teach gym or music, 50 students.

I'm a great believer in an active classroom, and I work really hard to make kids participate. Yet sometimes it's not possible. Life sometimes differs from rubrics in ways a casual observer cannot perceive. For example, if I have a kid grieving over a lost family member, I may decide it's best not to call on that kid. In fact, there are all sorts of other personal tragedies a kid could be going through. Sometimes kids are not programmed properly, and no matter what I do I cannot correct the problem. I do what I can, but I often end up giving such kids grades of NC, so they don't have failures on their records.

I've had kids who were suicidal in my classes. I'm not an expert on handling these kids in particular, but knowing that, I'm not likely to push such kids any further than they appear willing to go. So, will an observer to my class see the kid in the third row didn't raise his hand, Mr. Educator didn't call on him,  and determine I am negligent? Judging from the article, yes.

It's great when kids participate. I'd be bored out of my mind with a class that didn't. Nonetheless, there is no one way to do things. Sometimes my kids write in class. In my opinion, that's not an optimal use of class time, but I'm so bone-weary of receiving things printed off the internet, copied from sample compositions I myself have distributed, or clearly not written by students whose writing I know ("My cousin helped me.") that it's simpler to preclude such nonsense by whatever means necessary. I need genuine writing samples and I need every kid to write, particularly when my task is preparing kids for a writing test like the English Regents.

The underlying problem with any rubric is the absolutely false assumption that there's only one way to teach. It's like saying there's only one way to write--I like Agatha Christie and therefore everyone on God's green earth must use the same style. Great teachers I've known and seen have their own voices, and the tone-deaf purveyors of one-size-fits-all rubrics wouldn't know good teachers if they were being beaten over the head by them.

Now I'm not saying rubric-pushers ought to be beaten over the head. I'm just saying if they were, I'd understand why.
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