Recently, Secretary of Education Betsy Devos stated that many teachers are in “receive mode’ and are “waiting to be told what to do.” Many teacher advocates became ablaze with outrage as they decried this statement. I understand how many are offended by this idea. Teachers are not lazy nor are we all sitting around on our thumbs waiting for someone to tell us what to do. However, there is some truth to what was said.
First of all, it is my career goal to be in receiving mode but not the receiving mode that Devos implied. There’s a plethora of things that I would like to receive as an educator. I would like to receive a salary that is comparable to professionals in other fields with my level of education and experience. I want to receive appropriate funding for the students in my state. I want to receive respect and support from the voters and the Legislature in Arizona. I want to receive praise for all of the hard work and accomplishments that we get out of our students. I want to receive professional development that is fitted towards my needs and not a ‘one size fits all’ model. I want to receive a spot at the table when discussions are being held about policies that affect my career. I want to receive the ability to make decisions that directly impact the students in my classroom. For now, these are all pipes dreams. Maybe one day though….
However, I am ashamed to admit she was right about my current reality. I and many of my colleagues are in receiving mode. AZ Merit is quickly approaching. If my third graders do not achieve a passing score, they will not be promoted to 4th grade. My site looked at our district wide data at a staff meeting this past week. According to our district assessments, my school is expected to receive a D rating based on our performance on AZ Merit. Currently, we are rated a B school. That’s quite the drop. My district is extremely concerned that this will make our schools look like they are failing. We know that parents are concerned about this. And we are fearful that in this day and age of choice, that parents will move our students to one of the numerous charter schools in our city. A reduction in students will drastically decrease the amount of funding we receive which will cause teachers to fearful of losing their positions. Can you see the downward spiral?
The receiving mode I am in is caused by sheer exhaustion. I am exhausted from trying to do the best I can for my students just to be told that the data is not showing results so I need to change what I’m doing. Then a few weeks later, having the same conversation and changing things again. And again. And again. This focus on data and on AZ merit has made me feel completely ineffective as an educator. I feel like I am spinning my wheels and don’t know how to fix it. I know my students are learning but the assessments that are required are not showing it. If I can’t make my own instructional decisions for my classroom, then please tell me what I need to do to measure up to a tool that I have no control over; a tool that fails to accurately measure all the learning that happens in my classroom. How can I move out of the receiving mode I am stuck in to the receiving mode I yearn for?