Overnight, a Bad Teacher?
Ohanian comment: Teaching under such conditions runs counter to all professional standards. When will professional organizations stand up to this de-professionalization? When will professionals stand together, shouting, We are as mad as hell and aren't going to take it any more? For starters, and as a minimum, the unions, the school boards association, NCTE, ASCD should sanction schools that operate in this fashion. That our professional organizations continue to pretend that issuing resolutions is a political strategy is both cowardly and disgraceful.
I have been teaching high school English for seven years. It is a second career for me, and one that required my returning to school
for a number of years. Between my education and teaching experience, I have invested eleven years of my life in the teaching profession.
This year will be my last.
When I began teaching, I taught Shakespeare, Dickens, Poe, Hawthorne, poetry, creative writing, and business writing. I taught my students to fill out employment applications, create resumes, and understand symbolism in literature. I took joy in watching them grow throughout the school year. I have always received excellent evaluations and have been well thought of by my students, their parents, and my peers. Now I teach FCAT prep --only. It's still called English, but it isn't. I was given an instructional calendar at the beginning of
the school year that laid out, week by week, which FCAT skill I was to cover in that week. I was told not to use the literature books in
which our county invested thousands of dollars only a few years ago.
I was told not to teach a novel and to concentrate on FCAT-length non-fiction passages. I was also told that I was to be providing direct instruction, every day, from bell to bell. I have been "caught" twice this year allowing my students to read FCAT passages silently and respond to FCAT questions. I was told, verbatim: "Your room is too quiet." I was told they should not be reading silently in class. (um...isn't that what they are required to be able to do on the test?) I was also told that I was not saying the word FCAT enough
during instructional time.
Now I am being told that my reappointment for next year is in question for the above transgressions. Meanwhile, my students are
sick of hearing about FCAT. They are sick of my reading to them or to each other and actually beg for silent reading time. A student asked me last week why we can't read Romeo and Juliet. I don't dare sit down at my desk during the class time, even to take attendance.
My administration's requirements of me have become so bizarre they do not make any sense, even from a test-prep standpoint. Regardless of
my reappointment for next year, I will be leaving at the end of this school year. Enough.
Although I am trying to see my departure from teaching as an opportunity to grow, I am also heartsick. I will miss the students, their youth and vitality and creativity, and even their attitudes and problems. I can't believe that after six successful years, I have,
overnight, become a bad teacher. Even though I try to have perspective, I still feel like a failure. I guess I, too, have failed the FCAT.