I give kudos to Joe Bower for the way he is able to put his thoughts into words. I imagine we differ on some issues, but from what I’ve read so far I’m feeling like his blog posts encompass the things I’ve been thinking, but have been unable to put into words. The one I read today, For the Love of Learning, discusses how teachers often loose sight of what/who the top priority of teaching should be- the students and their learning needs. Many teachers “fall victim” (his words, and mine) to the pressures coming from the top down.
This is actually my biggest fear as I step into the world of teaching. I am afraid of giving into “the system”, as it were. But I know that I must, to some extent, because if I don’t accumulate and communicate the test scores, benchmarks and everything else my superiors determine to be important, at the end of the day I may not have a job.
Is there a balance?
I would love to enter a learning climate where the students and I can explore options, and learn whatever and wherever the learning takes us. I would love to spend 6, 8, or even 10 weeks on a project or unit without feeling that I am pressed for time because I must teach everything in the set curriculum. Not to say I do not agree with the concept of curricula, I do, but I often hear that there is too much that is mandatory to cover, and never enough time to give those learning opportunities justice.
Funny enough, however, I do feel the need for accountability. Though perhaps I believe in a different kind of accountability than what is often experienced and talked about in the current climate of education. I don’t feel its fair to the student’s learning if one teacher is giving the job their all (with hands on, real world learning that engages the learners, and instructional strategies that are in tune with the varied needs of the learners) while another is distributing photocopied handouts and sitting in their desk while their students ‘learn’. Which students will get the best education and develop a real love for learning? That is the kind of accountability I think the education system needs.
But instead teachers are bogged down with collecting scores in relation to literacy and numeracy levels, and then meetings to discuss those scores. And then the percentages of their students scores’ is compared to other scores, and if they are low, the responsibility is on the teacher to bring them up- with teachers often reverting to pen to paper learning, drill and practice, and the viscous cycle continues. The paperwork and ‘accountability’ to complete all these steps is also very time consuming.
I realize fully that teaching includes this baggage. But I wonder, when will I have time to focus my energy on the holistic learning of my students? Will I ever be able to teach and enjoy the successes of my students (no matter whether academic, social or personal) without a feeling of top-down pressure in the back of my mind to power through the subject matter, to force my students to do what is considered ‘good’ by someone else’s standards, and to conform to the power of the system?
I sure hope so.