A friend of mine has been crying a lot recently.
After more than a decade and a half in the classroom, my friend has been labeled unsatisfactory.
You may have heard about the schools my friend works for. Oprah loves ’em. Turns out the federal government loves ’em to. I’d be willing to venture neither Oprah nor Sec. Duncan would want to learn there, but they’re fine enough for other people’s children.
About a month into the school year, my friend had her first formal observation the other day.
We talked before. She was nervous.
Seems a rating of unsatisfactory could come as a result of not keeping her lesson within the timing framework of 10 minutes of introduction, 20 minutes of whole group instruction and 15 minutes of practice. This friend who guided and mentored me when I entered the classroom 8 years ago – this master teacher who has shaped thousands of lives – has been reduced to cookie-cutter teaching.
It is breaking her.
As it turned out, the timing of her lesson was not the point of contention. Content was the problem.
Her lesson introduced her learners to a key component of her subject area.
Without a mastery of this element of content, her learners would flounder in their further studies. Truly. In the list of basic things you need to know about the content of her course, this little tidbit sits near, if not at, the top.
My friend’s evaluator didn’t see it that way.
You see, this particular content is only featured in two of the questions on the quarterly benchmark tests her learners will be completing. And, they’re only comprehension-level questions.
The lesson should have been a mini-lesson, my friend was told.
Also, she should have waited for the learner who walked in tardy to the class to present her demerit card rather than moving on with the lesson and dealing with the issue when time permitted.
My friend – this resource, this veteran of the classroom who loves children and learning and igniting children’s curiosity and passion for learning – is being broken.
Something she loves is being molded into a pretty but deeply fractured system of homogeneity.
Other than these words, I’m uncertain what to do to help my friend. As the nation looks admiringly on, I can’t help but imagine others like her around her country who are finding themselves broken by the system.