Autumn and the Good Ol’ Days …
Last week, while anticipating the arrival of the three day Labor Day weekend, I reminisced with a colleague about my initial intention of becoming a teacher. I was a recent college graduate seeking employment that would fuel my creative streak. I believed in writing, truly believed that writing and language would change lives, as it did mine. It was naïve, I supposed, to think that this spark, this knowledge that had revolutionized my world would easily change others.
I was younger then, and no one applied to reservation schools because they were isolated and of a different culture. Coming to the reservation had usually been for those who had an adventurous or rebellious nature, or for those who came from the reservation, you returned to it – for the most part. English, math, and science positions went unfilled for months and years, and now people apply to these schools because the city schools have cut positions. Many of the schools have low pay and decent health plans, and they have to meet all of the Federal and state mandates, even with the huge numbers of English Language Learners. The history of Indian education is brought up every year and it is complicated business. Indian Territory has always been a challenge.
Excuse my digression; I miss that ol’ me who believed that writing could change the world. I almost look at my entrance into education as a time from long ago. It makes me laugh. Teachers in some states, like California, are being evaluated by standardized test scores. I have read several articles in the L.A. Times about teachers “not doing their jobs,” and “teachers failing” because of the test scores. If several students have a bad test day, be careful, it may cost you your job. There are many great teachers who are committed to teaching and learning, and it pains me that many of these teachers are being pushed to teach to exams. I did not get into teaching to make AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress), but on the same note, I cannot let my students down.
It’s a tough call – standardized test scores and creative spirit. I should not make it a duality, but let me tell you about last week. I entered an amateur photography contest and had to submit only one photo. I scraped my lesson for that day and told my students I needed their help. They had to help me choose the one photo. I taped eight colorful landscapes and they had to write their choice with an explanation. They quickly stood up and began critiquing my work. I tried not to listen to their conversations, but it was insightful to listen to their comments. They had to compare and contrast, they had to choose and defend their opinions. I loved it.
And then one student asked out loud, “How is this going to help us on the AIMS?”