Sunday, August 31, 2014

Another Prospective Teacher Bites the Dust

Yesterday I was in a truck stop outside Albany, buying important supplies like the Oreo cookies my daughter demanded to make the last leg of our trip home. The young woman behind the counter started talking about how long the hours were at that particular job. I told her a good solution was to find a job she loved, and then she wouldn't think about the hours that way.

She revealed the not-very-well hidden secret that she didn't love her current job and went on to tell me she wanted to be a corrections officer. I was pretty surprised. I guess there are people who want that job but its allure eludes me utterly. She spoke of how you didn't know what would happen from one day to the next. Though I couldn't argue with that, that was a pretty strong reason I'd never want that job. I guess we should be grateful there are people who want jobs we don't, or there'd be a whole lot more of us doing jobs we didn't like.

I told her I was a teacher, and she said that involved doing the same thing every day. I told her she was wrong, and that you never know what kids are gonna do from one day to the next. I told her that was one of the things I really loved about this job. I didn't get to mention that kids do troublesome and difficult things all the time as well. Personally, I have a lot more patience for behavior like this from kids than I do for adults. Kids are supposed to test us. They're supposed to do all sorts of crazy nonsense and we're supposed to guide them to use their energies to find happiness, even if it doesn't earn us credit on VAM scorers.

Her next argument came pretty quickly. She told me she had a son in second grade, and that he struggled with math. She said there were complicated formulas he had to use to draw conclusions, and that he didn't have a textbook, that she didn't understand how it was supposed to be done, that she knew no one who did, and that she didn't think his teacher understood either. Doubtless Campbell Brown would blame the teacher and demand we kill tenure as the only way to resolve this situation.

But these are the sort of things that happen when John King sits around making reformy mandates and not caring how they affect people. After all, his kids, like those of Bill Gates and Andy Cuomo, go to private schools, so what the hell's the difference how Common Core affects her kid, or mine or yours? When millions of kids suffer through age-inappropriate, incomprehensible nonsense, they can attribute it to rollout, or whatever, and continue on their merry reformy path.

But the young woman made a pretty strong case about how she would not wish to do to kids what her school was doing. It's pretty sad that this is the impression with which Common Core leaves people. And yes I know that there are books available, and it's entirely possible this case could be a particularly bad one, but parents of young children tell me variations of this story on a pretty regular basis. As CL of a large school I hear a lot of complaints, and over the last year or two I've been surprised just how many of them were about CCSS---not about what we were doing in our school, but rather what was being done to their kids elsewhere.

If I'd thought that I'd have to teach things that wouldn't help kids I'd never have taken these jobs. One way or another, Cuomo and King have to go. There's not a whole lot of love for Governor Andy and his 30-million dollar war chest. Even if he wins, there will come a time when popular outrage might force him, however reluctantly, to do the right thing. Being reviled in his home state will not be the best calling card for his Quixotic presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, if you're a registered Democrat, don't forget to vote for Teachout and Wu this September 9th. Happy Labor Day to all, and I'll see you in the classroom. Or trailer, such as it is.
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