I'm not a great writer; I'm a great reader. Which is kind of funny, since I am dyslexic. I have more trouble with numbers than I do letters, but by middle school, I was pretty sure I was just an idiot. A frustrated, troublemaking idiot. I had given up on reading completely by middle school and struggled terribly when I was told I had to read out loud in class. I have very distinct memories of having to go to the nurse, or just getting in trouble so that I'd be sitting in the hallway instead.
But I had a teacher who figured me out, in one semester, in a reading class. All there was to do in that class was read books — any books. I know, what a great class, right? Well, it was my worst nightmare. The teacher would have you come up to his desk every few days, open the book, read a quote and ask questions. After a few weeks, he sat down with me and showed me some tips and tricks, and I became a voracious reader. Now I'm unhappy without a book. I'm an obsessive reader, and I'm lonely without a book. If I'm having a bad day, it consoles me that I can read at some point. I simply love to read. And this huge gift in my life is owed to one teacher.
The educational system in the US is in crisis mode. The flip from No Child Left Behind and its standardized tests to Common Core Standards with more standardized tests has consumed districts across the nation. It's been extremely frustrating to figure out which end is up on all of this nonsense, but there is one thing that, no matter what, needs to be discussed. Teachers don't get into this as a career to make big money. Or even to have summers off. They actually LIKE what they do. It's their calling. And big government wants to direct them with specific, cookie-cutter limitations and standardized tests as a way to evaluate them. Now, if this were the auto industry, I'd buy that. Build a car, make it safe, it passes inspections, done. I think if teachers wanted to turn out factory products they would have taken another, very different, career path. But these kids are vastly different human beings with vastly different learning styles. And no one understands that better than teachers do. You can't evaluate that on a standardized test. You don't get to take into account how many times a teacher reaches out to a kid, a parent, or worries, or takes specific things about a kid into account when they are teaching. How do you evaluate the 'think outside the box' teacher who has taught an entire classroom how to not only do math, or science, but also give back to the community? With a fill-in-the-bubble, No. 2 pencil, hope that kid had a breakfast, a decent night’s sleep, and parents that care test? That's not possible. My youngest has been blessed with several exceptional teachers and mentors at the middle school. These teachers taught her so much more than core subjects. They exposed her to new ways of looking at the community she lives in, they have patted her on the back when she needed it, and most importantly, she has adults she trusts completely in case there is a problem or an issue, or if she has an idea that may be beneficial to others. That is INVALUABLE to me as a parent. She won an award recently, and every single time someone said how we had raised a great kid, I said more often than not, "This is about good teachers who have created an environment that is about giving back and helping out.” While we are proud of her, this award belongs to them and to her.
I've watched all of my kids with some inspirational teachers. Teachers who have gone above and beyond to help my kids adjust to a new school, the death of grandparents, friendship issues, peer pressure and so much more. Their catchphrases become a part of our lives, their lessons are discussed at my dinner table. These teachers know my kids in a way that I never will. They, together with some equally inspirational administrators and social workers, can do more with a lonely kid, a slow learner, a high achiever, or a kid in serious poverty in a school year than most adults who come into contact with that kid can do in all of their formative years. That's not something a standardized test will ever be able to evaluate them on.
This week, my kids are taking ISATs for what will be the last time. More standardized tests will follow, and teachers and our district will be evaluated by the scores our kids get on these tests, no matter how they learn, no matter if they slept well, no matter what is going on in their home lives. I think our teachers and administrators deserve better than that. Something is completely wrong when your government doesn't trust its communities to decide how teachers are evaluated. I trust my kids’ entire educations with these folks. If I trust them, why shouldn't the government? There has to be a better way.
Did you have an inspirational teacher? I need to find mine and tell him thank you, because he changed my life. I'm ashamed I have not done that. And folks, THAT cannot be evaluated or graded by any score on a standardized test. Thank a teacher - and tell your kids to do the same.