Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Obscenity of Teaching in These Times

**I am beyond angry. Beware strong language ahead.**

It feels like the world is crumbling around us. Our state remains without a budget-the longest period of time any state has ever gone without one-causing serious defunding of vital social services and added stress to every working person in Illinois. Our city seems to be devolving into chaos: lack of services coupled with spikes in violence. There are threats of our entire school system closing down. Whole neighborhoods seem one spark away from mass popular explosion.

And in the middle of this disgusting manufactured mess, people continue to try to go about their lives. But as a teacher, the cruelty of current education policy seems all the more obscene.

The neighborhood where I teach on the far south side of Chicago, is one of the neighborhoods most impacted by the mayhem. We have had a number of incidents of violence in the direct vicinity of the school including nearby shootings that forced our school to go into lockdown. There have been graffiti incidents on school property. As the longest school year winds down, behavior issues in the school worsen.

And in the middle of all this, we are forced to disrupt our students' lives even further with obscenely inappropriate testing.

Yesterday, the juxtaposition of the trauma both inside and outside the school came to a head. I spent the whole morning administering the mandatory district-wide assessment, an assessment which the Chicago Public Schools does not allow full IEP accommodations making it completely inappropriate especially for my non-reading students with special needs. But there I was, disrupting all my kids' routines and schedules, giving out this pile of garbage test. No less than three of my kids had meltdowns just before testing. The added stress and change in routine was too much for them. They began to cry and scream. It was traumatic to watch. It always hurts to see your kiddos cry.

But somehow we made it through the day. And then the worst happened. Right at dismissal there was a threat of imminent danger to our school. Our school went into another lockdown. A voice on the intercom telling everyone to lockdown while our security team (God bless them) rushed through the hallways moving all the kids packing up their bags at their lockers back into their classrooms in a mad jumble of confusion and fear.

My kids with special needs had already been dismissed to their homerooms when this most recent lockdown happened. A teacher told me afterwards how one of my babies-a girl with significant social/emotional needs-was on her way to the bus when the lockdown happened and security ran through the halls telling everyone to get inside their classrooms. She didn't know where to go so she tried to get back to my room all the way at the end of the hall. She has a physical disability which makes it hard for her to walk quickly so she was crying and emotionally breaking down in the hallway. Thankfully, my amazing colleagues took her in and calmed her. I can't believe this little girl had to go through that trauma after a day of testing. Obscene. Obscene.... 

How do we keep doing this? I can't believe that anyone is still talking about testing as a civil right. Come to my school and administer the damn test yourself if you believe that. YOU be the pawn in this twisted, sick, rigged game if you still spout that baloney. YOU add to the trauma of kids already beyond the limit any human being's ability to cope. 

Kids huddled in the corner of a dark, locked classroom in our schools experiencing constant trauma...but the powers that be would talk about teacher evaluation, test scores, and our unions as the problem. Fuck all of you. Fuck you.
There is violence happening around us. The violence of austerity. The violence of poverty. The violence of mass incarceration. The violence of chaos thanks to an immoral, unethical, truly evil ruling class that cares nothing about the pain and suffering their neoliberal policies breed.

This will not stand. School MUST be made a safe place for kids. We need the flexibility to create places of healing, not high-pressured, chaotic, joyless test prep factories.

Some days, I don't know how to keep going. I am participating in the trauma. One thing I do know, I won't stay silent about these horrors.

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