During an in-service on "scales" this afternoon, I soon became lost in a sea of jargon, giving me the opportunity to reflect on what this whole new rigmarole -- and this is just the beginning, we were told -- feels to a teacher of my advanced years.
My ruminations were intermittently interrupted, however, by the anguished cries of my beloved colleagues as they attempted to figure out what exactly the freak "scales" were and why we were having to learn about them.
Sitting in an uncomfortable chair and resting my elbow on a table stacked with the papers my colleagues and I would be dragging home with us afterwards, I had a terrible epiphany.
For the first time in my life, I was relieved to be old. I was grateful that I only had a little time left in a profession that is more and more being orchestrated and overseen by Nutcases United (NU). My gratitude, of course, was tempered by extraordinary sadness and anger at the hijacking of something I hold so dear.
Administrators do their best to calm our fears and dowse our anger by assuring us that this stiflingly disruptive evaluative system -- that seems to be growing tentacles of acronyms -- doesn't change the wonderful way we already teach, it's just a new round of terms to learn.
Nice try. I'm not being sarcastic when I say we appreciate your concern and we understand that you're pretty much as impotent as we are to slow the progress of this Juggernaut.
As the list of indicators grows and the drop-bys increase and the methods of monitoring, measuring, weighing and gauging proliferate, it all becomes more than an overlay of jargon. Let me try a little analogy:
People who have been driving for years eventually train their brains to do all the things required to keep them alive and moving on the road without bothering their conscious minds. We keep an eye on the car ahead of us, and the one ahead of it; we periodically scan the rear- and side-view mirrors; we check our speed limit; we constantly troubleshoot while also pondering elections, football, lesson plans, climate change and Mad Men.
But if we take on a backseat (or passenger seat) driver, someone eager to help us stay safe, we then have to add that person's list of concerns to ours. Our normal, unconscious flow is disrupted as we try to anticipate what our anxious passenger might be seeing. Now, even though we've done it for years, driving is no longer second nature, but strained and anxious.
That's what it's like to try to teach (which is like breathing for someone like me) and to mentally lug around a huge bag full of indicators that must be paid obeisance to. Also, as I have noted here previously, we must act as if there is no extra person in the room tapping away on an iPad. Our community is disrupted, our continuity is disrupted, our rapport is disrupted; the whole prospect of "teaching in the moment" becomes almost impossible while we try to satisfy the needs of the Dark Lord Marzano.
Even if the end product is a good class, it's a fake one on some level.
Okay. Occasionally at today's meeting I tuned back in just enough to get the crap scared out of me chiefly because since I was in about the 7th grade I've been horrible at putting together and sustaining an apparatus such as The Scale. I know this is something I'm just going to have to crib from my colleagues and then feel dirty about it later. Going along with extra stuff that I don't believe in always makes me feel dirty and compromised.
Now about those anguished cries of my beloved colleagues: It was good to hear them. I predict they're just getting warmed up. I work at a school with a terrific faculty, and I sense they have had it up to here with the extra work this crap is handing down to them and, more importantly, with the utter lack of trust it all implies.
Think about it: We have to just keep doing what they say and letting them watch. We have to change the way we talk to our kids. We have to let our kids see us doing things they know we have to do and maybe even watch us do things that go against our teaching philosophy. (I keep expecting one of them to ask, "Don't you have any integrity?") We have to change the way we grade them. We have to add fluff to our plans to meet new demands or try to cram what we already do into newly framed categories. All of this because we can't be trusted to do what we do. All of this because our own profession is not considered safe in our hands.
This all has to stop. Teachers are at the bottom of the food chain, at the bottom of a hole. Someone up on the surface keeps throwing trash on top of us. The people between us and the trash-throwers, people like principals, school board members, and superintendents all seem powerless to stop any of it. While this stuff is falling all around our ears, they keep shrugging and apologizing. They keep saying, "More is coming. This is the direction we're headed so we better get ready for it."
We have become, in the words of Kurt Vonnegut, "listless playthings of enormous forces" beyond our control.
I don't believe in those things. It is people, not forces doing this to us, and they have to stop. Someone has to step up. We have to turn this profession back into something we're not embarrassed to be associated with, something that won't chase our young colleagues away so quickly, something we can once more recommend to our kids as an honorable and rewarding way to spend their adult years.