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[Susan notes: When teachers talk about what they do, the truth and wisdom shines through. Compare this with the official lesson plans that came out of the U. S. Department of Education recently.]

Submitted to Washington Post but not published

Dear Valerie Strauss:

Thanks to Susan Ohanian, I just read your thoughtful piece that appeared recently in the Washington Post regarding the education of our middle school children. For nineteen years I taught language arts in a junior high school here in Greeley, Colorado (which morphed into a middle school in 2000.) Your profound insights resonated so strongly with me. For years we had a group of teachers - science, math and language arts, which developed an esprit de corps - and a nurturing approach to a generation of young people. Our science teacher received national recognition for constructing a stream table on our campus and inspiring his students to simply explore nature. I used a wide variety of paper back books - manageable and readable- and even today, ten years after leaving this environment, students often approach me to tell me what they remembered about what they read. I can remember seeing teenage boys hide the books under their shirts because they didn't want their peers to know that they had found something they wanted to take home to read.

But then high stakes standardized testing invaded our schools, and our children, in the space of two school years, became important primarily as numbers on a grid. The climate changed radically. One by one the veteran teachers left. Your piece reminded me so strongly of the sterilization of education because of the boondoggle of high stakes teaching, and my hope is that other educators and parents will think about your writing, respond to your piece, and add to the rising awareness of how much better we must do for our children - and for all of us.


Don Perl is head of the Coaltion for Better Education.

Don Perl

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