Ha! Do you really see this? I do remember those days... but, my days at the end of the semester are quite different now.
- Students skipping school on the final days because: "They can't pass the class anyway, so why does it matter?"
- Students coming in all hours of the school day asking for bonus or extra credit.
- Students asking when I will be "fixing" their grades in the computer so it shows they are now passing.
- Students rejoicing that they just passed their Algebra exam because the teacher made it so easy; otherwise everyone would fail the course and she would be in trouble. "The questions were like, 'What is 1+1?' I totally passed it with like a 100!"
- Emails from parents asking, "What can we do to get my child's grade to passing?"
- Emails from parenst asking what I have done to help their child pass my class this semester.
- No replies from parents to whom I respond that I offered before and after school assistance, study sessions before tests, a writing session before and after school, bonus assignments posted online for each unit, and weekly email reminders to parents and students about upcoming assignments, tests, and other due dates.
In the early years of my teaching career, I remember hearing the words "high expectations" so often, I wanted to vomit each time it was uttered. I was teaching with high expectations. I was pushing my students. I was preparing them for college. I was seeing success. But now I long to hear those words come from an administrator. I think I would grab them and hug them with great vigor if they told me to hold my classroom expectations high and
DO NOT LOWER MY STANDARDS
just to make everyone feel good and appear as though they are earning the credit. And then, I would probably pass out from all of the excitement.
But as testing accountability became more oppressing, I no longer heard the words "high expectations." It was a thing of the past. The new words were "closing the gap" and "passing rates" and "no retention" and "accept all work, late or not" and so many more. These can all be combined into one simple phrase in my book: Dumb down the education.
We are no longer called to the principal's office because little Sally's mommy is concerned that she will not be college ready. We don't hear that Johnny needs to work more on developing his research paper so his college essays will be well-written. We aren't told that we need to step up our standards to compete with the other local high schools in our academics. Instead, we are asked questions like: Why are so many of your students failing? What can you do to improve your students' grades? What can you do to fix the grades problem for your classes? What can you change so that more of your students are successful in passing the course?
What can I do? NO! It's what SHOULD my STUDENTS DO? I can answer that question.
It is no longer a question about meeting the standards. It is no longer a conversation about creating college-ready students that will make us proud in their futures. It is no longer about producing students who know our content and can retain what they have learned in their high school classes as they move on into adulthood. It is no longer preparing students with good work habits and strong ethics. Those ideals are becoming novelties of the past.
So, as this semester comes to an end, I have a decision to make. Do I conform or do I teach?
The lesson that I teach in these years may not be about history or geography. It may not be about the mistakes of the past or the heros who have changed our world. Instead, it may be that if you do not work, you fail. If you do not study, your GPA will not be good enough to get you into college. If you do not write your own papers, you will receive a zero for your work and learn about a little thing called plagairism. And the biggest lesson of all: If you do not put forth the effort in high school to do your best, you will live a more challenged life in adulthood. Life does not come easy to those who ONLY wait.
But then again, that is in my ideal world. The truth is that other questions around this whole situation come to my mind now. Do I want to keep my job? Do I want to constantly be harassed by the adminstration? Do I want to be identified as the ONE who will not pass her students? Should I just dumb it down like the rest?
Is there anyone else out there that wants to keep their high expectations?
Where have all the TEACHERS gone?
Is there HOPE?