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A Question of Needs Analysis


Ohanian Comment: This
teacher's statement breaks my heart. . . and
enrages me. As I keep saying, our very
profession is being systematically destroyed.
This teacher offers frontline evidence. She is
my kind of teacher, someone who has the
confidence and pride in her craft to celebrate
the scenic routes instead of sticking to the
map. She sent me a note:


I have been failing at trying to write a needs
analysis since July. Finally it dawned on me
when I thought of you, the need in my class is
based on a problem with my INSTRUCTION. I can't
be a standards based teacher. The need is that
things have got to change on order for me to
look in the mirror and call myself a
professional educator. You said it. There is no
more joy. . . . I never ever saw this day
coming... So this is my final year with
students (total of 18 years in elementary.....)
here is a summary of "the epiphany". . . .

The difference between the way
things are and an ideal learning circumstance
is the heart of instructional need. For my
target population their problem is their
current instruction. Education reform policy
calls for rigid adherence to highly structured,
systematic approaches; a method contrary to
their current classroom teacher's experience,
intuition, or philosophy of education.

This ongoing conflict between
public policy, educational theories of
instruction, and research based effective
teaching practice harms children. In the end,
we teachers must demand professional autonomy
to meet students' individual needs. Otherwise
we can no longer claim our field employs the
practicing classroom teacher as professional
educator.

My students know to look for goosebumps.
Goosebumps are good. If I have them, the
students have done something wonderful. Or else
they are about to. I wear my heart on my sleeve
without embarrassment. We all get excited when
the teacher has goosebumps.

There was not a time when I decided to become a
teacher. I've wondered perhaps whether the
teacher is in me and she determined I must
teach to fulfill her vicarious need.

I have learned that each new school year is
sort of like giving birth. The class arrives
with its own personality. Teachers have to be
flexible. It's the grown-ups job to figure out
how to lead a school family. No matter how many
children there are, all must know they are
valued, cared for, and they are unconditionally
accepted. The classroom is a safe haven.
Otherwise children cannot begin to learn.

Most of what happens in my classroom each day
depends very much on what happened the day
before. Lesson planning eludes me because it
isn't practical. I believe life is a highway.
We travel in different lanes and speeds,
sometimes there are detours, and occasionally
we get stuck in the middle of traffic. And you
know it can be a wonderful change of pace to
take the scenic route every now and then.
I have come to accept that what I do in my
classroom is no longer valued. Still, I'd been
hopeful in my educational practice there was a
subversive artistry. I firmly believe dedicated
teachers committing acts of rebellion and
creating miracles across the country represent
why standards based reform has not failed
utterly.

Something greater is amiss these days. I've
analyzed the need for improvement and come to a
conclusion. My students' instructional problem
lies with their instruction. At its core my
philosophy conflicts with politics, policy and
the intention of standards based teaching. I
understand that what I know to be true about my
students and their learning needs is
irrelevant. I've accepted it's impossible to
close the door and ignore this reality. I'm not
sure my inner teacher is coping so well.
Therefore after 18 years, this will be my last
in the classroom.

I never intended to become a dinosaur. Times
change and progress happens. Part of me keeps
insisting this is a personal issue. As a mid
career educator and a woman in mid-life, I'm
out of touch; maybe. But this I believe. Unless
educators insist to have academic freedom and
make professional decisions in the best
interest of their students, this tide will not
serve either. Are educators really willing to
acquiesce to recite scripted lessons and
monitor kids' weekly progress to grunt phonemes
to a stopwatch? If the only reason we do these
things is because we've been told to by people
who know nothing about our students, teachers
cannot claim to be anything better than field
technicians.




— Lora Hogan


2008-10-20


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