. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: There is One Child I Could Leave Behind

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

There is One Child I Could Leave Behind

Ever wonder how an educational policy is born? What one-eyed, seven-fingered leviathan fathered this bastard of a plan named No Child Left Behind and then ran off leaving us surrogate parents (aka Teachers) to raise him? I, for one, have reached my limit with this troll-child we call Nickelbee (NCLB). He runs rampant all day, smearing his sticky fingers on my plan book and chewing up all my hard work. His graffeti of requirements and expectations is such that I can no longer recognize what was once written there. A demanding child, he commandeers most of my time both during the school day and after. He has no respect for my authority. My expertise as a highly-qualified educator with many years of experience, positive professional reviews, qualifications as a Master Teacher, and a Graduate Degree mean very little to him. In his opinion, nothing I suggest is as valuable as his ideas, or dare I say, as his demands. My suggestions are summarily dismissed and then he stomps his way across our curriculum. Worse yet, that little imp has absconded with my almost all of our other subjects! Goodness knows where he's hidden such favorites as art, science, social studies, and PE.

He is single-minded, to say the least. Now I have known my share of kids who obsessivly focus on one thing, and that rarely has any benefits. His obsession is reading. I KNOW! At this point you're saying, "Could this lady really be suggesting that focusing on reading is a drawback?" Yes! I am! Does the phrase, "Too much of a good thing" sound familiar? For example, I love apples, but if I only ate those and neglected the other food groups, I would be one sick puppy in a relatively short amount of time. Nickelbee has lived with me for about 6 years now, forcing my students to subsist on a diet of language arts and math. The educational-malnutrition is starting to wear them down.

Please don't get me wrong. Like troublesome Nickelbee, I too love reading. We love it for different reasons though. I love it for all the same reasons most teachers do. It's a joy to see students learn to break that code of letters and sounds. Stories take them out of their lives, carrying them anywhere they want to go. A good novel can bond a class unlike any team-building exercise I've tried. Not to get too sappy here, but reading is truly magic. I've worked hard to ensure that all of my students get the support they require to develop a life-long love of, and ability to, read. To that point, I worked many years to develop a schedule that allowed me to facilitate 6 small groups a day to meet my students' needs. That was until Nickelbee moved in with me.

He loves reading for selfish reasons. While it's important to him that children succeed, it's more important that he look like the reason for their success. He utilizes the imperfect yardstick called Standardized Testing to measure his success. This is much like measuring your yard for tax purposes using a piece of cooked spaghetti. His demands for a rigorous, standards-based curriculum is not unusual, but his petty preoccupation with minutia and micromanagement leave me perplexed. His obsession with testing is beginning to test my patience. I have witnessed as students slipped from "loving to learn" into the abyss of "learning for the test." My challenge, according to Nickelbee, is to keep the fire alive in my students while he simutaneously douses them with tepid waters of qualitative assessments.

Like many children, his expectations are high because he's a dreamer. We like that as teachers but we also recognize the value of setting sound and reasonable goals. He's demanding that 100% of students read on grade level by third grade. His "I want it all" attitude is noble. Politically speaking, he probably thought it unwise to suggest a percentage lower than that. Whose children should be the ones volunteered to fall into the "not reading at grade level" category? Realistically though, his goal is unattainable. Despite our best efforts, reading maturity develops at different ages for different children, dooming his lofty expectations. He is bound to be disappointed, and I fear the tantrum he will throw then!

It's time we get Nickelbee under control. He's been running wild for too long. If we can't get rid of him altogether, can't we at least get him some counseling?

1 comment:

KauaiMark said...

Nickelbee (NCLB)

Clever! I've seen NCLB sometimes implemented as NCGA (No Child Gets Ahead) because teachers are so focused on the low end, the rest get ignored or held back.

Everyone has to be equal....