Sunday, December 16, 2012

I’m Not a Hero.

Like most people, I don’t particularly want to be one, either. I can’t express my awe and admiration for the teachers who protected their students in Newtown, and like anyone, I have no idea what I would do in their circumstances.
The closest I ever came to having students in physical danger was about 25 years ago. I was a very green teacher, teaching English in summer school. I had already angered administration by demanding use of the sole and sacred school copying machine after they informed me there would be no books for my reading class. They were very upset when I informed them I would not teach the class without materials, and had no choice but to capitulate.
One day, rocks, or BBs, or something very fast, started zooming through my windows during class. I took all the kids out into the hall and we started searching for a new classroom. I found a vacant one on another side of the school. We took it. I was scolded for acting without proper authority and given a D, or doubtful rating for the summer, despite having gotten a very good observation from the roving English supervisor who’d observed me.
The following summer, I was observed by a principal. This time, I did nothing out of the ordinary, and my students needed no protection. But I was giving a lesson in which my entire class was very much engaged, and things were going well. The principal, wearing a three-piece suit in stifling heat, walked in, looked at my lesson plan, and clucked his tongue several times.
"This plan only fills three-fourths of the page," he announced. "The next time I come hear, I want your plan to fill at least one full page." He did not write the lesson up, as he had seen none of it and had not the remotest notion what it was about. You can imagine how much I valued his insights,
Experiences like these, I'm sure, typify those of many teachers. Here we are, working our hearts out, and we're judged by people who not only don't appreciate what we do, but likely couldn't do what we do if their lives depended on it.

But I digress. Who is a hero? For one, the young teacher who sacrificed her own life to save those of her young students.
What galled me most after hearing of this tragedy was seeing the reformy types use it to push their own ridiculous programs. I saw paid tweets from Students First pushing the junk science evaluation in NYC. I saw Michelle Rhee, whose idea of classroom control entails taping shut the mouths of children, saying this makes her want to get even more reformy.
These people have no shame. Were it up to them, the heroic teachers of Newtown, CT would be fired for test scores that in no way reflect on who they are or what they do. If they had any dignity whatsoever, they'd crawl back under their rocks for a few days and shut up. I see no more virtue in them than in the troglodyte GOP congressman who now urges teachers to carry assault rifles.
Here's the bottom line--carrying assault rifles or judging people by test scores is precisely the opposite of what we, as teachers, do.
In fact, it's the opposite of what we are, or should ever be.
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