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No Child Left Behind: Teaching Tales
No Child Left Behind: Teaching Tales
The President and his educational secretary want to pay me based on my student’s performance on test. Lets get this straight: I believe that all children should be taught. I believe that all children can learn. I run my classroom so that all students get attention and their personal educational needs are met. That said, NCLB does not work and we need to stop putting all of our students in the same box. Here are some of my favorite student tales:
I teach a writing class and last year I had three such classes. In my final period of the day, I had 36 students. Half of those were students who did not speak English. One student in particular was very trying. We will call him R. R was born in the United States, but his first language is Spanish. He did not start school until he was six. His parents do not read in English or Spanish. He is on the fringes of a gang and has a bad attitude about school. For the first six weeks, he does not even come to class. After a call home, he comes sporadically. He cannot write a complete sentence and has trouble expressing himself in either language. He speaks Spanglish 80% of the time. When he takes test, he plays games and makes pretty patterns. His parents have no control over him and he has been arrested numerous times.
Another student is N. N is a 15 year-old soon to be mother. Her parents have thrown her out of the house because of the baby. She lives with an aunt. Her baby is due in January and she and her boyfriend do not have jobs. She was trying to get pregnant so that she could have someone to love her. I know this because she told me. She is afraid, but she is trying hard not to let her fear control her. She cannot concentrate on school. She comes to class every other day. Her belly is getting bigger. She eventually leaves school for three months after the Thanksgiving break. She does some home study, but no one is there to make her do her work. She has her baby and comes back but now she is even more distracted. The baby is at school with her in daycare. She cannot focus on her studies and her grades slip with all of her new demands.
G is an African-American male who at 14 is already over 6’ tall. He looks like a man. Most teachers are afraid of him. He does not read well. Gets kicked out of every class and has general contempt for teachers and authority in general. His main goal, once he is in class, is to get out. If he cannot get out, his goal is to disrupt. He does not sit in his seat. He does not do any work. If he can intimidate a teacher he will. His parents have four boys in high school and none of them go to class. They don’t care. No one cares. He does what he wants too, when he wants too.
Teacher merit pay sounds good and is politically correct, but it is a bad idea. We will lose good teachers because they teach in bad situations. Americans have this idea that teachers sit on their butts, get lots of holidays, and do not care about their students. That is not true for 95% of the teachers I know. They are hardworking dedicated professionals who only want the best for their students.
The problem is that we have been trying to teach G, N and R the same way for the last 50 years. It is time for a change and it is time for us to realize that not all students go to college and not all students are going to pass standardized test. Many students deal with grown-up situations. School and learning are the last things on their minds. They are hungry, being abused, neglected, or just simply alone. These things are not my fault and I should not be paid based on them. Policemen are not paid by the crimes they solve and firemen are not paid by the fires they put out. However, you want to pay me based on whether a student, who does not have the ability, can pass a test. Go figure.
Oh, by the way, I had all three of these students in one class. Grow up America.