Thursday, August 23, 2012

Focus on the Kids

I've had a few people implore me to do that over the last few weeks. The first time, I was discussing Walcott's scheme to override arbitrators so he could fire teachers based on not only unproven, but plainly rejected allegations. This person said it was unseemly for me, as a teacher, to stand up for adults, and that I should focus only on the kids.

Yesterday I was chided for complaining about politicians and their wacky antics. Why can't I just focus on helping the kids? Why am I so negative?

This seems to be a favorite argument of those who claim to put children first. A huge flaw in this particular argument is the fact that people like me spend our working lives with said children, and we don't sit in classrooms lecturing them about our political views, whatever they may be. Another is the fact that those of us who care about these kids know they will grow up one day. Would it be responsible for us, as teachers, as parents, to ignore the world into which we're sending our children?

I teach 100% high-needs kids, and it's my job to make sure their needs are met. I'm hampered by the imposition of idiotic high-stakes tests that don't even measure what my kids need most. They lose valuable time that could be devoted to addressing their needs, and are likely placed in more remedial college courses as a direct result. There's nothing these remedial courses can offer them that I couldn't give them in high school.

By debasing the teaching profession to a test-prep, low-security, Walmart model we not only hurt teachers, but also children. First, we're offering them lower quality and less dedication. For many of us, teaching is not just what we do, but who we are. We're not here to pad our resumes for a couple of years before we move into making real money. More importantly, by eviscerating what teachers have worked for for decades, we're removing a very viable path to middle class for kids like those we serve.

If we care about kids, if behooves us to take our heads out of the sand and stand up for things that will help ensure their future. That most certainly includes leaving them more opportunities, specifically including the opportunity to serve those who come after them by teaching them.
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