Today is my fourteenth First Day of School. My teaching career has taken me through Arkansas, Florida, and now North Carolina. I never knew how good I had it in Arkansas. I didn’t have the advantage of perspective since it was my first teaching job in my first school. No Child Left Behind hit and standardized testing crept in on those little paws that look so cute on puppies but can do some real damage once the dogs are full-grown. Then after watching Florida’s Department of Education implode and hunkering in the trenches to survive the shrapnel, I moved to North Carolina. North Carolina is now proudly marching down the land-mine infested road that Florida blazed. I feel a little like that bad penny. I could spend pages and pages discussing what most educators would agree is the slow death of public education but I don’t want to talk about that anymore.
I want to talk about hope instead. There are some people in North Carolina who are still doing it right and I have the immeasurable luck to be working with them this school year. My new principal began our first staff meeting last week by saying, “The North Carolina legislature has declared war on educators and I’m madder than hell. I’m not lying down. We’re going to support our students, one another, and let the rest fall where it may.” And that’s just the beginning.
There is true collaboration going on between teachers and administrators. There is legitimate love for teaching across the staff. The administration laughs with us at the ridiculous hoops the legislature continues to add to our repertoire. There is absolute trust that we are all there to TEACH, not test. We are doing what we can within the rigid and artificial structure legislators are giving us to educate our students to the best of our ability. I am excited to be going back to school today and greeting my students. I am excited about what I’m going to teach and how well my students will do READING and WRITING in spite of the the tests.
In April of 2013 I was legitimately looking for other professional opportunities and very sure that I would not be in teaching much longer. Now I feel revitalized and reassured that I am in the correct profession. I feel like there are teachers and administrators and schools left out there that haven’t given up. I feel like maybe, just maybe, if we can keep our heads and hearts focused on the students rather than the ever-changing standards, our kids might have a chance.
Good luck to all my fellow educators as we head back to school. Here’s to hope.