A teacher told this story at staff breakfast on Friday morning in the northern California town of Cool.
A group of kindergartners were standing about. One boy said, "I know who Santa Claus is." His friends pressed closer, eagerly awaiting the big revelation. "It's Mr. Sheridan."
There was a buzz of conversation, then a second child said, "It can't be Mr. Sheridan. He's Abraham Lincoln."
There was another buzz, as students processed this thought. They knew the second child was right.
But one boy puzzled over the problem a moment longer. Then (you wait for this sort of original thinking in your classroom) he proposed, "Maybe he's both!"
This idea produced a hubbub. The first boy stood taller, head up and smiling. He knew he'd been proven right.
Eat your hearts out Rod Paige, Harold McGraw, Chris Whittle, Reid Lyon, Susan Neuman, members of the Business Roundtable, Success for All, Reading First, House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, and other assorted Standardistos.
George Sheridan is a second grade teacher in Cool. A combination of Santa Claus and Abraham Lincoln, he is also a man of conscience. In May 2201, calling the School Site Employee Performance Bonus that gave $591 to teachers, "blood money," he refused to accept it. George told a Sacramento Bee reporter, "This is a bribe to keep us quiet. These tests amount to child abuse. My 7-year-olds had to sit still for 11 tests, which took eight hours to administer. They were physically wiped out."
George and four of his colleagues in the Black Oak Mine Unified School District donated their reward checks to the California Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education, a group dedicated to abolishing standardized testing.
Kindergartners in the Black Oak Mine Unified School District haven't been in George Sheridan's class yet. But clearly, they know a good man when they see one. They know that a good teacher isn't somebody who delivers a commercial script; they know that a good teacher is a combination of benevolence, honesty, ethics, intelligence, courage, patience, and cunning. And humor helps. The next time some special Congressional panel takes a look at teacher skills, they might try asking kindergartners.