Tuesday, March 8, 2011

This is why teaching can be funny

Today I was dressed in an orange-red-white checkered shirt with black pants and black shoes.  As the class was walking in from recess one girl said to me,

"Mr Smerkanich, you look so professional today." 
I reponded, "Don't I always look professional?" 
Another girl, "I think it's the black pants and nice black shoes, you usually wear khakis (which I do almost every day)."
 Me:  "I wear these shoes often."
First Student, "I think it's the pants, they are tuxedo-like."

So there you have it:  wear black pants once in a while and sixth grade students think you're wearing part of a tuxedo.  Imagine if I ever wore a suit or blazer.  They would wonder if I was getting married or getting buried.  These are the type moments I will miss.  They are getting rarer and rarer, the types that make me smile or laugh, but I will miss those little 10 second conversations. 

I will not miss:

The same day early morning meeting to review, once again, PSSA procedures.  Two pages of what to do and what not to do.  What students take the tests in original format and those with 504s and IEPs with modified tests and procedures.  Why we must constantly circulate throughout the room, monitoring.  And as our principal said:  This is our Super Bowl!  We must be ready.  Do we have special treats and extra recess planned for the kids?

Six days of alternating math and reading tests.  And nothing is really done with results except to note the number of advanced/proficient scores vs basic and below basic scores.  The paramount question at the beginning of next year becomes what can we do to move the basic and below basic to proficient?  Feels like what I imagine is a dog chasing its tail.  Will not miss that either and these sorts of discussions really drives instruction for the year.

We've managed to take all the fun out of reading and writing since No Child Left Behind was enacted.  Now there is a writing formula and a host of books with titles like: Blowing the State Assessments Away!  which really are same type problems and prompts that bore kids to tears.  So we don't read poetry for the sounds and cadence and imagery and literary devices that paint pictures and pure joy of hearing the written word with many meanings and nuances.  It has to be read by the student silently followed by 6-10 questions asking everything from comprehension to inference skills.  Or read this passage and give three reasons the main character encountered with supporting details from the story.

I'm not against accountability, I'm not against children reading for meaning.  But with the length of the school year, much time is spent doing mundane types of reading and writing.  And for what?  Great PSSA scores based on your zip code and student population.  Really?  Is this what we want?  Because we are getting great numbers but the cost is we have at least one generation that appears to hate reading and writing.  How sad...   I shall not miss this charade.

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