Opine I will

I am an elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

Meet the Teacher Night 2012

l teach fifth grade in a small suburban K-6 district and last night was our meet the teacher night. I had several options before me,  give my standard  spiel on my procedures and expectations , explain the new Common Core State Standards, or educate parents on how, so called , education reform, will really affect their children. I had to decide whether or not I was willing to choose this mountain to take a stand.

Please keep in mind, I work in a very conservative  Republican district.  It is so conservative, that when President Obama gave his famous speech to students at the start of his first school year as president, I was given a directive not to show that speech to my students.  After much debate, I was threatened with insubordination charges if I dared to show that speech.  ( Just so you know, I read the speech to my class, I posted President Obama’s picture with an excerpt from the speech in my classroom, and it’s still there since 2009.)

After much contemplation as to  what to present to parents, I decided to do all three.  I went for that mountaintop. I  give a quick run down on procedures and expectations. I then explained the new Common Core State Standards, and went on to  educate them on how, so called , education reform, will really affect their children.

I explained to these parents that this year will be like no other. I went through how the Common Core assumes that their children have skills  that they don’t have yet. I explained how they must robotic-ally answer questions with specifics from texts while leaving out their own personal feelings. Because as David Coleman has stated, no body gives a sheet as to what you feel.  I explained how their children will have to learn a new expanded math curriculum and that I need to teach more than one lesson a day at times, because there aren’t enough days to teach 1 lesson per day before the ‘big test’. I told them that learning how to divide fractions is now not enough, their children will have to create models to demonstrate how that actually works. All because someone thinks that’s what is done in the real world.

When I described how New York State now has a new teacher evaluation program called APPR, I could see some parents were quite uncomfortable. I then explained to them that APPR will rob their children of lesson time. I showed them how I must take attendance 5-6 times each day to collect data , and how at 1 minute each it would rob their children of the time equal to 9 lessons. I then informed that of all the testing that their children will have to endure and that is designed to test teachers  rather their children. I told them that their children could lose up to 90 lessons this school year due to APPR tests, data, training, grading and more.

Our school was labeled a “Reward School” this year. That means that out of over 4600 public schools in NYS, our school was one of approximately 230 that were rated at the very top. Despite this, we are being treated as if we don’t know how to teach, our teachers must be evaluated to weed out the possible ineffective ones, and their children are not doing well enough.

I informed these parents  that it was time for them to get involved. It was time to step up and contact those at the state level that this path we are on is leading the wrong way.

Needless to say, there were some parents who were quite upset.

Hopefully not with me. It looks like it could be a wild ride this year. Stay tuned.

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23 thoughts on “Meet the Teacher Night 2012

  1. RR, I think we were separated at birth. You hit the mark again. We all need to advocate for schools to inform parents about all mandated test dates and times. Parents would be shocked.

  2. God bless you, my friend. As a music teacher, I don’t have to have this conversation with my parents – yet. I don’t envy your position, but I thank you for having such candor with your parents.

    It’s time for all of us to follow your example.

  3. Thanks for doing the right thing. I’m attempting to do the same here in Florida. The situation has become so complex and multifaceted that it’s hard to explain it to… anyone! Thanks for speaking up!

  4. Pingback: If Every Teacher Did This…. « Diane Ravitch's blog

  5. Your passion is evident. I always struggle with the assessment/observation/micromanagement teachers have to go through. It’s horrifying. As a young teacher just starting out I often question if I’ve made the right move. I love what I do. I do my job very well. But the system is constantly requiring I prove I’m not inadequate. It’s a constant struggle.

  6. That was wonderful! Thanks!

  7. What’s even more frightening is the fact you couldn’t show the presidents speech!

    • We were told we couldn’t show the speech either in my mid sized rural district. I was not planning on showing it as it didn’t fit into my area-Spanish. But if I were a current affairs/social study teacher I might have wanted to.

    • Right. You gotta wonder about a school board who worries about exhortations to the students to “do your homework” and work hard to learn. Maybe it’s the school board that isn’t getting the message.

  8. Bravo. I hope that more teachers are inspired to Rome activists and advocates like you.

  9. Thank you for this. I just found your blog through Diane Ravitch. If you want to see what we are up to in Chicago, visit our facebook page: 19th Ward Parents. Can you ever remember anything like this surreptitious takeover of public education happening before? The stealth, the controlled messaging, the paid-for politicians?

  10. twinkie1cat on said:

    You must have tenure and a good union to speak out like you did. Thank you for your ethics and for following your calling. You are the kind of teacher who gets fired if they can managed to do so, so don’t ever be directly “insubordinate”.

    I am glad for what you did about the president’s speech. They try to make us think that we leave our constitutional freedoms at the schoolhouse door. A teacher in Baton Rouge a few years ago I heard was fired for having a Pro-Choice bumper sticker.

    We need more teachers like you. Just be careful and keep explaining to the parents that they have the power when the teachers can’t make the needed changes. It often takes a teacher to help them understand the extent of that power.

  11. And yet another display of why tenure is a necessity… it fosters truth-telling. Thank you brave, man.

  12. I am sharing your thoughtful presentation to parents with my teachers. Our Open House is this week. I hope they are brave enough to stand on the mountaintop and tell parents exactly what is going on with the state.

    How about this?? How about telling parents ( some of them who are in the military) that the Libyan dictatorship made billions investing in Pearson Publishing Company, the company that is writing their child’s standardized tests. How would that sit with those who have lost lived ones in war??

    Marge

  13. Excellent! I too am a New York State teacher. The first step is getting all of us on board in fighting this. Thank you.

  14. Be strong, and continue on this path!!! I left my classroom after 23 years because I could not find a way to fight the inexorable advance of this reform lava flow, destroying much in its path. I now tell parents to keep their children home from tests and to tell their principals why.

  15. My Principal told us “not to air the school’s dirty laundry” on Back to School Night. We were told to stick to reading our syllabus to parents in the 10 minutes we had with them. Administrators are terrified of a what a teacher might say to a group of parents when left in a room all by themselves. The truth hurts. We need to share it with parents because they are the ones who will ultimately lead us out of this mess.

  16. Thanks for reading and sharing my “Meet the Teacher Night” posting. I am thrilled to see so many great responses. To those of you worrying about retaliation, please keep in mind I fulfilled my responsibilities that night. I explained my classroom procedures, I went over expectations, and then I informed parents of what the year was going to happen this year. I “played by their rules”.

    Some of your readers,picked up on the Pres. Obama speech issue. There too, I found a way to do the right thing in a way that followed my administration’s ridiculous directive. Be creative, it sends a message that they shouldn’t mess with you.

    We all need to find our own way to inform parents of how education reform isn’t really reform at all. Do your homework, stay informed and share as often as you can. Not only is the future of our noble profession at stake, the future of our nation lies in our hands.

    Speak up, speak out, speak often. And never, ever allow anyone to force you to check your First Amendment rights at the school house door.

  17. I happened upon a gentleman walking 2 beautiful dogs. He shared that he is a financial planner and hates to see what is happening to the teaching profession and to farmers. He suggested that what was needed was a movement all across the US. The farmers all park their tractors and say no milk, fruit or vegetables today. He further suggests a movement in which all teachers across New York State pick one day ( the same day) and call in sick. WOW!! How could we organize that?? It would be such a powerful statement!!

    Marge

  18. ruralteacher on said:

    I wish our school did a “Meet the Teacher” time during Open House where I had all my parents at once in my room. If I did, I would give the exact same speech. The parents of my first graders need to know what is being lost everyday because of period by period attendance, focus on assessments, and what APPR means. Ours is exactly that – an Open House- where parents roam from room to room, trying to sign up for Parent Teacher Conferences in November.
    In my small attempt this year, I have convinced the second grade teacher to join me in handing out the PreK – 6 CCSS for ELA and MATH at Open House. It is my hope that once parents start reading them, they will become upset and ask ME what they can do. WHEN they do, I’ll suggest OPTING OUT!

  19. I will be glad when all rise up together and take our schools back!

  20. Bravo! Not only did you let them know about your expectations-you also prepped them in advance so that they’ll understand (the state’s expectations) and the numerous reasons why their cherubs are not being taught but prepped for a test. Now if parents do something with that information, they maybe we can turn this tide of assessment madness around.

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