Tag Archives: voice

The Dilemma


My daughter was born to be a teacher. Just like I did when I was young, she would line her dolls up in rows and stand before them and “teach” the old fashioned way. They were quiet, she would talk. But they were taken to make-believe worlds through her books and they were given her diagrams and sketches of the world according to Allison. Fast forward and she walked across the stage at her University accepting her degree in Elementary Education.

Her world is different than mine as she enters the teaching field. I entered pre-test and I remember walking into my first classroom in urban Cincinnati, Ohio bursting with excitement. My students and I created our own lessons as we made our way through the curriculum. There was no “map”, no standardized test at the end of the course, there were no parents asking for grade sheets for me to justify their A or B. Oh, there was the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and other national standardized tests and parents were concerned about their children. To be fair, I taught in an area where those kids, for the most part, would be first generation college. It was 1979.

Allison enters the teaching world with as much excitement as I had as she has worked extremely hard to get prepared to enter the profession. But the reality is that she is entering the post-test era and it is becoming increasingly clear that her “success” will be based on her students passing a standardized test (called SOL’s in Virginia, ironically, for Standard of Learning). She will be given a curriculum map, a pacing guide, and a fat set of facts for her students. She has had a taste of this as she substitutes around Northern Virginia in many of the premiere public school districts in the United States. She has embraced this profession and understands student learning, collaboration, and that she is the facilitator in the classroom. She is substitute teaching in several public districts and one small parochial school.

Here is the email I got from her Friday: I was offered a job in the parochial school for next year and I may be offered a job at the public school I am in now. What should I do? They are both excellent schools. The main difference in SOL’s. All I do now is have to practice and prepare for the tests in May/June. The parochial school doesn’t have that focus, it is about learning. There is a different vibe. They still have the curriculum, but I have more freedom. Help.

She knows I teach in a public school (not where she is substitute teaching). She knows I have taught at a parochial school. I HATE the end of course standardized tests, as well as all the benchmark tests in between. My classroom is Project Based and I am passionate about student learning. But the reality is that I have a pacing guide, curriculum map, a textbook (they only use for reference). And most of the time I feel isolated because of it.

I know what I told her, curious as to what advice you would give?


Being Bold


on the edge

Walking into my classroom of 8th graders having them excitedly tell me about their holiday activities – Guitar Hero, playing videos, posting You Tube videos, and how many texts were flashed around the vacation world, I am struck that these kids now have to “power down” to get back to the traditional school day. Oh, I am one of the lucky ones who can provide laptops to my students and I provide a project driven class, but it within the context of 45 minute classes that are rotated around 8 periods a day. It is not the fault of the school – I am also fortunate to work at a supportive and collaborative building. But how do we get to the point where students are excited about education and don’t have to “power down” in order to get back to the traditional classroom? Listening to Daniel Pink, Alan November, Tony Wagner speak about the need for educational transformation and what our kids will need for future success, I am determined to join others in trying to be a force of change. But I also see 8th graders going through the motions of school. In my annual unit of Holocaust/Anne Frank/Europe students are usually excited about finding the right picture, quote, and music to portray their own unique digital story. They love the process including choice, voice, and being able to share their stories. This year I have not seen the same excitement. It is what Tara was experiencing and I think part of it is that this unit is not enough anymore. I need to reflect and ask critical questions about how I can get this unit even more student centered than it already is. I won’t give up. I am passionate about the need for all of us to “get it.” Our kids depend on us “getting it” – that we need to transform education into 21st Century learning. I will begin to be bold.