Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Sitting at my desk at work today, I find myself wondering what to do. It is one of those don’t-do-a-damn-thing days. It is, at times, perplexing to me, this wonderful job I have. I love it so much, and really should not complain. I make the largest salary I have ever earned in my life. I only really work about 4 ½ to 5 hours a day. Somewhere around 172 days a year.

It is the day of one of the state mandated standardized tests. I am not an enthusiast of this particularly unscrupulous practice. My major issue is with any system of evaluation America’s schools are required to participate in. In my state, the amount of funding a school receives is directly relational to the school wide scores on these educational interruptions. I call them interruptions because that is exactly what they are. Take today, for instance. My small school only has thirty-three students. We tested approximately six. The rest got to play games or goof off while these six struggled through a math exam most probably not the correct grade level for them. Most of our students are either Special Ed, or behind in some manner. The younger children all have developmental impediments which limit their ability to succeed at such tests.

I remember the year they put together a State Committee to address this situation. At the time, there were no educators appointed to this community. Its population consisted of captains of local industry, a few preachers, and one billionaire. No teachers, or principals, or so much as a secretary for a school. The result of their committee work developed a Bottom Line for education which read like a Profit and Loss statement instead of a realistic paradigm for getting the children of our state to make better grades. In order to accomplish their lofty goals they, being better capitalists then educationalists, felt that money is the root of all that is good and fine and as such required schools to perform for them if they wanted money to buy books and other seemingly non-essential items for their schools. We would probably do better with teenage car washes and/or legions of organ grinders with monkeys to support our educational system.

What is it about America that views financial success as a harbinger of enhanced intelligence? Why do we believe that everything is a purchasable commodity?

I experienced something when I became a teacher. Kids want to learn. I have received that miracle a teacher receives when you say something and you can see the light go on in a student’s eye telling you that what they just saw, or heard, is something they will remember. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I feel valuable. I know that this value I feel is mine without effort. The very fact of my humanity gives me all that I need in order to know I am worthwhile. Seeing a child actually show amazement is such a gift. Watching them play video games is a disappointment. I realize that I am not going to grab their little hearts and minds by forcing them all to love classic literature as I do. I realize that the only thing I can really do to fend off this feeling of uselessness is to make sure that the only games available will be of some social importance, or educational at some level.

As to the standardized test...I guess I’ll just live with it. It is not like I am liable to be appointed to a state committee or anything. After all, I am educator. I’m also not rich. Go figure.