Monday, January 20, 2014

What Will Your Students Remember About You?

I wish I'd written this piece. It's perfect. As we struggle through the nonsense of corporate reforms favored by our billionaire ex-mayor, as village idiot John King musters the audacity to suggest his baseless untested programs would please Martin Luther King Jr., as Arne Duncan plays basketball somewhere and pretends he cares about public school children rather than his billionaire BFFs, this says pretty much everything.

How many kids, in ten years, are going to be saying, "I had Ms. Two-Year-Wonder and she gave the most rigorous lessons I ever had in my life."

"Yes I will never forget the time we spent twenty-six days discussing a short story."

"The best part was it was all about the Civil War and no one told us."

"I'm a much better person now that I've analyzed a seven-page story for forty-six hours with no idea what the hell it was about."

Kids, as the writer says, remember you. Genius non-teacher David Coleman, who created the Common Core, says no one gives a crap how kids feel. I'm certain, if we put Coleman in a classroom, the kids would notice right away he doesn't give a crap how they feel. For goodness sake, the man boasts about it.

But for real teachers, kids remember things. I was working at Queens College when a couple of my former students complimented me for actually having read everything they'd written. Apparently that meant a lot to them. I'm glad it did, because I spend a lot of time doing that. And those were kids who were stuck in my Regents prep class, which was likely as not the worst class I've ever taught.

I have gone to PDs where teachers, teachers, said they no longer bothered to actually have kids read the stories they were sharing with their classes. They just had them find setting, theme, tone, and whatever other things the test wanted. They wanted to make the whole process as meaningless as possible. I was pretty sure, bad as my classes may have been, that theirs were even worse.

I do believe, though, that kids will remember your kindness, caring, or lack thereof a whole lot more than whether or not you gave a mini-lesson, wrote an aim, or did whatever it was they were clamoring for that year. These things stay with you even as the Pythagorean Theorem fades into a blur.

And these are the things we teach kids. We are role models. We show them what adults can be like, what life can be like, that happiness is an achievable goal. Sure we teach our subjects, but it's our job to trick them into loving these subjects. We picked them, so we'd better have that love, and model it too.

And we'd better model a love for the kids we serve too. If we can't do that, we're no better than David Coleman, John King, Arne Duncan, and the other sanctimonious morons who wouldn't know a good teacher if one were beating them over their empty heads.
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