Monday, February 10, 2014

In Hartford Courant: Why I Want To Give Up Teaching

Hartford Courant, January 17, 2014, OP-ED

Why I Want To Give Up Teaching 

Liz Natale

Liz Natale, a West Hartford teacher who wrote about her frustration and anger with education reforms apparently reflects the views of many Connecticut teachers. The column went viral and the leader of the state's largest teachers union said that teachers overwhelmingly share the columnist's views. (John Woike, Hartford Courant / January 22, 2014)


Surrounded by piles of student work to grade, lessons to plan and laundry to do, I have but one hope for the new year: that the Common Core State Standards, their related Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing and the new teacher evaluation program will become extinct.
I have been a middle school English teacher for 15 years. I entered teaching after 19 years as a newspaper reporter and college public relations professional. I changed careers to contribute to society; shape young minds; create good and productive citizens; and spend time with youngsters lacking adults at home with time, energy and resources to teach them.
Although the tasks ahead of me are no different from those of the last 14 years, today is different. Today, I am considering ending my teaching career.
When I started teaching, I learned that dealing with demanding college presidents and cantankerous newspaper editors was nothing. While those jobs allowed me time to drink tea and read the newspaper, teaching deprived me of an opportunity to use the restroom. And when I did, I was often the Pied Piper, followed by children intent on speaking with me through the bathroom door.
I loved it!
Unfortunately, government attempts to improve education are stripping the joy out of teaching and doing nothing to help children. The Common Core standards require teachers to march lockstep in arming students with "21st-century skills." In English, emphasis on technology and nonfiction reading makes it more important for students to prepare an electronic presentation on how to make a paper airplane than to learn about moral dilemmas from Natalie Babbitt's beloved novel "Tuck Everlasting."
The Smarter Balance program assumes my students are comfortable taking tests on a computer, even if they do not own one. My value as a teacher is now reduced to how successful I am in getting a student who has eaten no breakfast and is a pawn in her parents' divorce to score well enough to meet my teacher evaluation goals.
I am a professional. My mission is to help students progress academically, but there is much more to my job than ensuring students can answer multiple-choice questions on a computer. Unlike my engineer husband who runs tests to rate the functionality of instruments, I cannot assess students by plugging them into a computer. They are not machines. They are humans who are not fazed by a D but are undone when their goldfish dies, who struggle with composing a coherent paragraph but draw brilliantly, who read on a third-grade level but generously hold the door for others.
 
For the rest of the teacher's "I Quit" op-ed, visit the original Hartford Courant page.