AP_The_Scream_MoMA-x-wide-communityToday, when I opened up the administration site on my blog, I found the saddest note from a new teacher. I have no idea of how to respond to her. Perhaps one of you might think of something to say. I have to think deeply about how to respond. Maybe it’s because this is the end of a long day, but somehow I’m having a very hopeless feeling. I have a great desire to scream.

I truly welcome any of your thoughts and suggestions.

Here’s Sarah’s comment:

Hi Renee,
I am 37 days away from finishing my first year of teaching first grade! My whole life I have dreamed of being a teacher. It wasn’t until college that I fell in love with the Reggio style of teaching. I was blessed to visit Reggio Emilia during the summer going into my senior year of college! It was AWESOME!
I was hired a week before school started back in Mid August of 2012. I was so excited! The school I teach in is the epitome of a data driven school. We have a data wall and data meetings and each child is colored red, yellow, or green. In fact, the principal is talking about displaying quotes regarding specific data data data on the wall next year. The more I become engrossed in the data driven mentality, the more discouraged I become. It’s so sad that watercolors were requested on our supply list but have stayed in the closet due to the high demands of test after test after tests. Not only do these children have to take the test on paper and pencil, but also log them into the computer.
Is their any advice you can offer? As a first year teacher I feel trapped by numbers. Have we forgotten about creativity and student choice? I yearned to be mentored by a Reggio or Reggio-inspired educator.
Thank you!! Your blog is so inspiring!

5 thoughts on “Scream!

  1. susan kotansky

    I agree that this is so very sad BUT I’ve been around long enough to realize that the pendulum will most definitely swing the other way. At the rate this whole thing is moving, I’d say sooner than later. In fact, in the New York Times from yesterday there was an article about pre-k’s popping up in NYC. One was a high achieving school with an arts/academic focus called Einsteins and Mozarts (?) or something like that, where kids go from 35 min class to 35 min class…art, music, dance, etc.
    It has 20 students. The other school is called a “forest school” and takes place in Prospect Park and was started by two former Waldorf students who are married. They have 200 students. The school is going to expand to Central Park. It’s all outdoors and emphasizes play and nature and “SLOW PARENTING”…emphasis totally off education as output.
    I think Sarah has a choice: wait it out and do the best she can (and document and research while she’s at it) and trust that she will find the right place cause she is definitely NOT ALONE. Her description of her school sounds an awful lot like mine. I’m seriously considering leaving too. Or she can find like minded people in a private school. OR she can become an activist and protest what’s going on. Hopefully she won’t give up. The world needs young teachers who know what’s happening is wrong and are willing to try to do something about it. I’m so sorry that her enthusiasm for the creative art of teaching has been dampened by the disgusting educational climate that is so very very real.
    Everything happens for a reason and hopefully Sarah will find her place in the solution and not become a statistic.

  2. stephanie

    Dear Sarah,

    You are definitely not alone, and while I agree that I see very creative spaces opening up outside of public schools, I don’t see the end of these “data-driven” practices any time soon. Testing companies are making billions of dollars, and legislators have literally bought into a dehumanizing corporate model of teacher/school/child accountability that will destroy everything in its path. Public education is one of the last “markets” to be exploited and there are trillions of dollars to be made in the accountability movement – and when that much money is at stake, what is best for children is not likely to carry a lot of weight.

    However – you are not trapped, and you can make a difference, and millions of teachers all over the country feel exactly the way you feel. Thousands of them are speaking out.

    From my vantage point, it seems that you can:

    1) Run like hell. You might have landed in a worse-than-typical data-driven school where you literally don’t have any elbow room at all. If you see teachers getting punished, humiliated, “written up”, etc. you may just need to find another school.

    2) Find colleagues in your school who have found some “elbow room” for doing things differently in their classrooms. Ask your colleagues how they make space to give their young students opportunities for painting, exploring, playing, creating. You might be surprised – there might be some revolutionaries behind closed doors.

    3) I don’t know what region of the country you are in, but find local people outside your school that are doing creative things for kids. Hang out with them, inspire one another, and organize yourselves to let your friends, families, neighbors, and legislators know what’s happening and why it’s wrong.

    4) Connect yourself with the larger national movements. SOS (Save Our Schools) is one that is definitely gaining momentum:

    5) Be smart. In these times teachers don’t only need to understand the learning/teaching process deeply, but you/we also need to understand the political movements against public education. Follow Deborah Meier’s blog, Diane Ravitch’s blog, Paul Thomas on the Daily Kos, etc.

    6. Steal the moments in between for now. Put those water colors on the tables and use them! Force yourself to make room for exploration and play and creativity every single day – before you know it, you might have a really different classroom and others may be pointing to you as the model for how to do things that are right for kids in the middle of the national educational “deform” we are living through right now.

    Good luck, take a breath, and find your center. What matters most is what you do with/for/to that child who is looking at you right now.


  3. Pingback: Dear New Teacher… | engaged intellectuals

  4. Tomasen

    I was talking to some people the other day about the current state of education and those in education have NO idea what is going on. Ultimately, as parents, they talked about making the best choices and finding alternatives for their own children via private schools. It is so much bigger than anyone even realizes…thus your sense of hopelessness Renee. Honestly, as I talk about it with my friends and family I get so riled up that I actually have to stop myself…as people can only really take in a bit at a time… and I can see my passion begin to wear them down and shut down!! It is tooo much!!
    The longer I am in this the more I feel my title is moving from teacher to that of one who encourages civil disobedience. What would happen if this teacher banded with others and refused to give one of these tests and then backed it up with why they refused? Knowledge is power and as professionals we have to trust what we know in order to defend the profession. I agree with Stephanie, take out the water colors and then explain that this part of the development was more crucial than yet another data driven activity.
    Woe is me…

    1. Herb


      Along with all the worthwhile suggestions in the above replies, I would add that time is on your side. No matter how backward the school’s practices, your increasing “stature” as the years roll by should provide the wherewithal to bend them more to your liking. Unlike you, I’m approaching the end of my teaching career. I’ve worked entirely in less-than-stellar settings, under a parade of administrators. But I found that as a gained a bit of a local reputation as an early childhood teacher, I was able to reason with, educate, and generally prevail upon a series of occupants of the principal’s office. Transfer to another school if you must (although it sounds like you’re needed right where you are), but PLEASE don’t give up on the profession.



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