Rush and Rush

“Childhood should be a journey, not a race.” I have a tote bag with this quote that I sometimes carry back and forth to school. I bought it several years ago at an SDE conference for teachers of primary grades. I BELIEVE this completely. However, childhood AND teaching have become a dreadful RACE to the TOP.

There is pressure put on students and teachers to reach a nebulous standard by the end of grade. For example, all Kindergarten students MUST be reading at a Level D (as leveled by Fountas and Pinnell) by June. Why? Well, because you see, there is ‘research’ that says if they are not on “grade level” by the end of grade 3, they are doomed.

I hardly believe THAT. I know that students whose reading lags behind some set of ‘norms’ may have to work harder, but I refuse to give up on them. I refuse to believe that if students are not reading at some “set” level by the end of third grade they will NEVER do well in school or later on, in life. I also refuse to believe that any child not on a prescribed “level” at the end of any primary grade should be retained. However, that is exactly the discussion we’re having at my school, and I imagine the discussion that’s happening all across the nation. Why is it that we can throw out or dismiss research that shows retention is just as bad?

Just as students are being forced to rush into work that they are not developmentally ready to do, teachers are being asked to rush and rally around paced curriculum. How lucky for us, right? The state of NY and the crafters of the CCSS have taken all the guess-work out of how to PACE our curriculum, our days, our year. Let’s ignore the fact that none of this is coming from educators. Let’s ignore the fact that much of what’s in the CCSS and the paced curriculum is developmentally inappropriate. Let’s ignore the fact that traditionally trained teachers (not TFA boot camp grads) have spent hours learning about child development and curriculum development. Let’s ignore the fact that good teaching and learning is NOT a “paint by the numbers” activity. Let’s ignore the fact that NOT one student or teacher should be standardized.  Let’s ignore that each and every child that enters our classrooms is a UNIQUE individual. More important than any of that ‘nonsense’ is keeping up the pace, because this will somehow magically make it certain that students will score well on FLAWED tests.

As if that wasn’t stressful enough, teachers in my school are now scrambling to assemble a collection of “artifacts” for review as part of our APPR plan. We need to find evidence of parent communication, reflection on our teaching, reflection on our students’ learning, evidence of continued professional development, and logging all our calls to parents to produce continued contact with parents.

The result? Well, school is no fun for students. Teaching is no fun for teachers. But, hey, all we have to do is live and die, right?

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