Friday, January 17, 2014

Undernews: What the test tyrants have done to one teacher

What the test tyrants have done to one teacher

Lynnie Vessels, Virginia Journal of Education - I used to be a great teacher. Then I became a good teacher. Last year I wondered who I was as a teacher.

I used to create the most wonderful lesson plans that allowed me to teach my students developmentally, and by the end of the year they were synthesizing everything they learned. One parent told me if her daughter had lousy English teachers for the rest of her schooling, it wouldn't matter because her love for English was ignited.

Another parent, who was also a teacher, told me, "You understand the mind of a middle-schooler." I do. My own middle school years were painful, and I do everything I can to shake it up for my students, getting them laughing and loving the written word. I had an English teacher in middle school that did that and I learned from him a hundred tricks I've used my whole life.

I used to be a star in my classroom, more exciting than television, a comedian, and I made every kid a star. I created an atmosphere where students learned volumes without ever knowing it. I acted silly, even foolish, and taught them to do the same. I role modeled someone in her element. By the end of the year, the shyest child was able to perform like a pro on the stage with his peers.

I used to stand up every back-to-school night and say, "I love my job, I love the kids, I love my classroom, I love this school. I wake up every day happy and can't wait to get here."

Last year I could still say that, but just barely.

I still love my students but this multiple-choice testing feels like little bombs going off throughout my year. I prepare the kids. They take the tests. Then it feels like I spend weeks cleaning up the debris, collecting data I don't really need because I already know what they know and don't know.

I get that there are slacker teachers, but I've only met three in my 26 years of teaching. While standard multiple-choice tests are meant to lift "up" bad teachers, what about those of us that were soaring all along? We are forced to dumb ourselves and the students down.

The students I released from my care five years ago were far more knowledgeable and better prepared than the students I released this June. If I were a parent, I'd be livid that my children were being prepared for multiple-choice tests and a dumbed-down curriculum.

... This year my school is starting an IB Middle Years Program that is meant to create knowledgeable, principled, global, critical thinkers, but we are still expected to test students constantly, until the point of test exhaustion. Frankly, the two are diametrically opposed and it impossible to do both well. Most educators know this, but we have to "go along" with what we do not believe in. This is why good teachers are leaving in droves.

Do you know how long it takes to prepare a seventh-grader to pass material he'll likely never use? It wastes valuable teaching time when we could be reading, writing and discussing big ideas. I feel like a bird with rubber bands put around her wings, being placed on a moving sidewalk headed to the robotic-teacher factory. I'm flapping, but no one is hearing me. Or worse, I'm seen as a renegade. I cannot compromise my integrity in order to do what I know is wrong for the children in my charge.

I see teachers regularly on YouTube reading letters of resignation. They have given up and left. I haven't given up. I am writing this. I want to stay. But I want to go back to creating my own lessons and tests with my own brain. I want to be the teacher I used to be. I love my colleagues dearly, but none of us wants to be a clone of the other. I respect them enough to see how incredibly talented they are. And I see the young, bright teachers coming in wanting to fly.

... For many of us, teaching is a calling. We are motivated by our love for children. Teaching has been the greatest spiritual journey of my life. I could not have chosen a better profession for my talent, creativity and intelligence. It is what I was put on earth to do, yet I feel like I am being asked to change something as fundamental as a religion is to some. I cannot help my sadness. I miss being excited for another school year.

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Be Trim Tab Affect The World

by Bob Evans

PLAYBOY: Isn't it part of that packaging a sense of the individual's impotence to affect events, to improve or even influence our own welfare, let alone that of society?"

Happy New Year! 2014 is going to be great! At a party last night, the Captain of an ocean going vessel to which we installed a marine version of GasPods clued me in that preliminary results show a reduction in fuel consumption. Given that GasPods work to reduce fuel consumption when placed on most cars, it should follow that a variation can be made to work as well in reverse – underwater.  Further testing is underway, but these initial impressions bode well for launch of our sister company, Aquahance.

This exchange prompted me to begin the day, and year, with a Google search for images of "boat trim tabs." Scanning through the hundreds of relevant images, there appeared a tombstone. Don't be dismayed. This is anything but a bad omen. I clicked through and to my delight appeared a photograph of the graves of the visionary inventor Buckminster Fuller, and his wife, Anne Hewlett. Inscribed prominently above their heads are the words, "CALL ME TRIM TAB, Bucky."

My curiosity peaked and motivated my continuing search until I came upon the following quote by Buckminster Fuller from a February, 1972, interview in "Playboy Magazine":

"PLAYBOY: Isn't it part of that packaging a sense of the individual's impotence to affect events, to improve or even influence our own welfare, let alone that of society?

GasPods are small. Installing them on your vehicle takes no effort at all. GasPods affect the aerodynamic characteristics of your vehicle in a positively significant manner. And, the potential cumulative effect of all of us getting together in an activity seemingly as easy as placing GasPods on your vehicle is atmospheric.

19.4 lbs of CO2 are released with every gallon of gas burned. 97 gallons of water are rendered permanently polluted. If 40,000,000 individuals – that is only 2% of the close to 2 billion vehicles on the road today – join in reducing their vehicle's gas consumption by 5%, by any method or means it is estimated to prevent 11 megatons of  CO2 per year from entering the atmosphere and save more than 118 billion gallons of water from permanent pollution by oil processing. That is more of an impact on preserving our Earth than any one program of industry or government in effect today.

FULLER: Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Elizabeth again: The whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there's a tiny thing on the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It's a miniature rudder. Just moving that little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. It takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it's going right by you, that it's left you altogether. But if you're doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole ship of state is going to turn around. So I said, 'Call me Trim Tab.'"

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