Saturday, January 24, 2015

I Don't Know How to Teach Under EdReform

It's formal observation time at my elementary school.  In the Chicago Public Schools, we have a new evaluation system that mandates a lengthy, complicated, and ridiculous process of administrators going into classrooms for formal observations at least three times a year for nontenured teachers like myself.  During those observations, administrators are expected to record every little detail they observe over a forty-five minute period of time and then use these "snapshots" as a large part of our total evaluation.

In order to prepare for this observation, I was forced to create a very specific type of lesson, one carefully aligned to the Common Core State Standards and that follows our mandatory pacing guide dictated by our Network.  I was expected to demonstrate that I used student data to guide my instruction.  I needed to follow a very regimented lesson plan format that left virtually no room for creativity on my part.

I told myself I could make the lesson at least somewhat engaging for my students.  I purposefully picked a high-interest reading passage that was culturally relevant to my students to use as my model and practice guide. I chose a fun, game-like way to introduce the skill as if that could mask the stink of what I was asking my students to actually do.

But it was after delivering this lesson, with a slight gleam of sweat on my brow from the anxiety of such an intense and punitive process, that I realized, I have no idea how to teach this way.

I don't know how to teach without context.  I don't know how to teach reading without centering literature at the heart of it. I don't know how to teach the discreet "skills" of reading according to standards which tell me I must teach how to infer, how to compare/contrast, how to analyze author's technique completely divorced from the content.  I don't know how to teach without inspiration or creativity.  I don't know how to teach to data points.  I have no idea how to go through a whole lesson without acknowledging my students for what they bring to the table instead of simply assessing if they left that table with the meaningless new "skill" lodged momentarily in their brains.

I did not learn to read by filling out a graphic organizer on plot structure.  No one forced the ten-year-old me to repeat back literary terms or dissect a reading comprehension passage as if this was what reading is all about.

I read because I love it.  My earliest memories of reading were of wonder, and curiosity, of staying up too late in bed with a book I couldn't put down.

It's true.  I must be a "bad teacher".  Because I don't know how to teach under edreform.