Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Brick by brick, callused hand by callused hand...." And We are Left Crestfallen.

I was unable to attend the SOS March. I am not proud of this. I refuse to spout excuses, and hold myself fully responsible.

Yet, even from my computer screen, following the march obsessively on Saturday using Twitter and Facebook, I felt the solidarity and unbending determination of citizens such as myself who refuse to accept this outright assault on the children of the USA. NOTHING will prevent me from marching next summer, and I'll come with my entourage of Bronx Teacher Yentas wearing flashy red spaghetti-strap tank tops.

When I read that the president would not take 10 minutes of his time on Saturday to step out onto his front lawn and communicate with, or even acknowledge the thousands of people who were exercising their right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in defense of our nation's public schools, my stomach dropped. His hypocrisy burned me.

At election time, I understood that this man did not come from a past privileged with material things, raised by a single mom, and his grandparents. He was different from the white, rich, power-hungry presidents that preceded him. At the time, I was a single mom, and through my own child, I identified with him as a human being. I hung on to every word of each campaign speech, especially those about education. My eyes filled with tears when he promised:

"I will listen to you... I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation... Block by block, brick by brick, callused hand by callused hand."

The day after he was elected, we (my dear friend and literacy coach was joining us, we had co-taught this class politics-based ELA lessons for a month before the elections, ironically creating multiple-choice questions on articles about the ineffectiveness NCLB) purchased plastic champagne flutes and some Martinelli's (alcohol-free) bubbly and toasted his victory with my 34 6th graders. Our eyes shone with hope, silently saying:

"Finally, a president who will help us. Who will understand OUR plight. Who will listen to the concerns of the poor, the parents, the teachers, the middle class, the laborers, the soldiers who risk their lives, those working 60 hours a week with calloused hands, those with heavy loads upon their backs and their minds. There is light at the end of this sad, dark tunnel. We have HOPE."

Well, as he has proven on Saturday, he is not listening. His hands, have they ever seen a callous? Has he lifted even one lousy brick? What, exactly, has he re-built? Nothing. Instead, he has taken the power away from the backbone of this country: the public sector. He has placed our children’s' futures in the hands of selfish, ignorant, rich businessmen. A well-rounded education is only good enough for his daughters and the kids of his millionaire and billionaire cronies.

Mr. Obama, what has become of you? I think it's time to revisit your childhood. And your victory speech.

While you're at it, grab a copy of the multiple choice section of the NYS ELA exam, time yourself for 60 minutes, grab a #2 pencil, and start reading those mind-numbing, emotionally-void texts and start filling in those bubbles. Tell me you did not come across at least ten questions that were there just to trick a middle-schooler. Tell me your brain didn't feel like it was just squeezed through a pasta-maker. Then, tell me that a child's worth as a student and a teacher's worth as an educator should be based on that test.

Then, give the test to Milea. She might throw it back at you and say, "DAD, this is stupid and boring and confusing."

THEN, rethink the TRILLIONS of taxpayers' hard-earned dollars, many earned by minimum wage employees with calloused hands that YOU (and Arne) SPENT on high-stakes tests, data collection, and test prep materials. And don't give me any bullshit that you are "changing these tests". Standardized tests used to evaluate students and teachers can be dressed up in any pretty format you like, it's still completely inequitable until you address the problem of poverty.

I am crestfallen by your deceit and outright hypocrisy. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Common Core Crime

So, I have been thinking a lot recently about our children becoming independent thinkers with the ability to relate their own experiences to what they are learning in school. When it comes to the teaching of literacy, the life experience that students bring to the table is crucial when it comes to learning how to draw conclusions and make solid inferences. Because each child's life experiences are vastly different, teaching them how to tap into their prior knowledge not only helps the individual student to acquire an in-depth understanding of a text, it enriches the literary experience of the other students as well. In a group setting, students can share their previous knowledge on a topic and actually teach one another to make solid inferences using this skill. In addition, tapping into a student's emotions and opinions is also extremely important, when teaching both fiction and nonfiction. Wow. I am boring myself. I'm not going to go on with this educational jargon--let's make it real:

Let's go back to my much beloved and very challenging sixth grade homeroom of last year. Rewind back to March. At this time, we were in a fiction unit. I was instructed to look at the test data from the previous fiction unit back in October, and see which skills my students were lacking the most, and focus on those skills. Data-driven instruction. We actually had to break down each students' progress (or lack thereof) into Performance Indicators (as dictated by NY State) or skills, which makes the teaching of something as lovely and imaginative as reading into a task that, well, just sucks the magic right out of a story.

Anyways, I looked at the precious, all-knowing Data Report (sound effect: aaa-aaahh---visual---ray of heavenly light) and noticed that, according to the numbers, my kids really did not understand how to identify the theme of a story. Well, of course they didn't. I had to jam so much material into that fiction unit in October that I was only able to teach Theme for a few days, and Theme is the most difficult literary concept to grasp. Why? Because the kids need to place themselves in the story to understand it. They need to make inferences about the characters. They need to bring the lessons THEY have learned in life in order to identify with what the characters are learning, and thus lead themselves to a theme.

So, here I was faced with a quite a challenge. (Picture Chalkduster rubbing her hands together over a pile of Data Reports). I knew the ONLY way the kids would grasp this difficult concept would be to give them a text that they could REALLY identify with, that we could sink our teeth into for an entire week.

I chose "On the Sidewalk Bleeding", a short story by Evan Hunter. In a nutshell, it's about a boy who joined a gang called The Royals and proudly wore a royal purple jacket representing his solidarity. He was stabbed in the stomach one rainy night in an alleyway by members of an opposing gang. The story begins with him lying on the sidewalk, dying and bleeding in the rain. The story ends with him using every ounce of strength he had left before he dies to wriggle out of that jacket. It's really, really sad.

I'm sure you can all see why I chose that story! Gang activity is a way of life for some of my kids. Not to say they are members of gangs, but many of their neighborhoods are permeated by them. When I gave the story to all of my kids to read independently you could hear a pin drop in room 113. A delicious stillness filled the air, and all I could hear was the occasional squeak of a desk, the soft patter of early-spring rain, and the tinkling of little Juanita's bracelets as she constantly flipped her impossibly long, wavy hair. She read intently, brows furrowed, her huge brown eyes focused, her mouth forming the shape of the words. (I can really visualize her now, and it's actually making me miss her.) Juanita reads almost on a fourth-grade level. I know this text is way above her "level". But I also know that Juanita has lived in homeless shelters and has witnessed her father beating her mother. (One day we had lunch together and she disclosed this information to me earnestly, but then reassured me she was safe. She produced a tiny, dog-eared picture of a young man with her brown eyes and said, "He's in jail now.") I know that even now, her living situation is not stable. I know by looking at her tiny, lithe frame that she definitely could use a few good meals, although she is entitled free breakfast and lunch at school. I know she has an older brother somewhere, and she's not even sure where he is.

I watched little Juanita closely and waited for her attention to the text to wane as it usually does after reading for five minutes. It did not. With much wriggling, hair-flipping, and bracelet-clinking, she finished with a flourish and let a few tears leak out. I approached her desk with a little smile. She stared up at me from her small, crossed arms. "Miss! Why you give us such sad stuff to read?? That poor boy! He never shoulda joined them Royals!" I gently shushed her and reminded her that many kids had not yet finished reading. This is not the first time she has cried over something she read. She cried a lot during the Poetry Unit. When we analyzed the lyrics of The Beatles "She's Leaving Home", Juanita had to go to the girls' room and splash cold water on her face. I then leaned down and whispered in her ear, "I give you sad stories to read on purpose so you can feel for the characters. It helps you to understand the story and make good inferences. I'm sorry that you feel sad, but that was my intention. Now I know that you understood the text."

Freddy shot us an annoyed glare. He was still on the second page, a careful, systematic, deliberate reader. Only when reading something engaging did he NOT welcome distractions. "Shut UP, Juanita, I'm trying to read!" I know he wanted to tell ME to shut up, but he knew better.

Once all of the kids finished the story, it was time to drop the bomb that we had to pick it apart, make inferences, and find the theme. We had to answer multiple choice questions. And essay questions. Groans ensued. I looked at my kids. I had their full, undivided attention. Even Fred, although standing next to his chair at this point, about to protest, held his crinkled copy of the story in front of him protectively, as if my manner of teaching was going to completely destroy it to smithereens. I just couldn't do this to them. They were hungry, starving for debate and discussion, dying to express to me, and each other, the emotions this story awakened inside of them.

Suddenly, I 86’Ed the multiple choice and essay questions I had written about the story. I slapped my typed, workshop-model lesson plan face down on my desk. Instead, I simply asked, "So, what did you all think?" I offered them a winning smile that told them their opinions and experiences were welcome. A passionate class discussion about gangs began:

"I got the BLOODS on my block!"

"Yeah, I got the Latin Kings. My ma said never to join a gang."

"My cousin is dead a ‘cause of a gang."

"My mom doesn't let me go outside after dinner. She say I could get hurt by a stray bullet."

"He got stabbed, yo! COOL. So much blood." (that was Freddy again. He has a morbid personality and he thinks it makes him likeable, but no one really takes his bad-ass attitude seriously. He's the smallest kid in the class by far.)

"Why he didn't fight harder?"

"Why he take off that jacket before he died?"

"He wanted to be himself."

"He didn't want to die as a Royal. He didn't want to leave that impression on the world. He wanted people to remember him as Andy." (That, from Sashaya. I wanted to hug her.)

I didn't have to say a word. In the discussion alone, they were approaching the theme and a deeper understanding of the text. I guess this is why education intellectuals say good teaching is really just facilitating. They made inferences about characters: "The cop at the end of the story acted like he didn't care cuz he sees this stuff all the time, He's ---numb---is that right, Miss? He don't feel it because he used to it."

The-new-goal of the lesson, which actually lasted three days, was to act out parts of the story in front of the class and fill out a graphic organizer with different levels of questions from Bloom's Taxonomy. This would eventually lead to the groups of students creating a colorful poster brandishing proudly the Theme of the story: What lesson about life does the reader learn from the story? Of course they had to use evidence from the text to back it up. But they also could use their prior knowledge on the topic of gangs. Those posters were proudly displayed on the bulletin board in the hallway for quite a while. I was so proud of them, but more importantly, they were proud of themselves for grasping a concept they had constantly fumbled on.

During the course of that week, they were in heterogeneous groups (different abilities) of four or five. I did not have to do anything but wander about the room, and eavesdrop, or ask a few leading questions to strugglers. All in all, the lesson was an enormous success. Every child was engaged and having a great time. There were no essay questions or dreaded multiple choice questions. And, on the next unit test, (multiple choice, modeled after the State Exam) their proficiency level for finding Theme rose a whopping 62%.

The reason why I chose to enlighten you all with this heart-warming story is that I wanted to give you perspective on the matter of using students' prior knowledge while teaching high-level literacy skills. I have serious concerns with how the new Common Core Standards approaches Literacy Education. They speak for themselves. Cited from Ed Week:

**Side note: I apologize for not placing a tag to the link here. For some reason, since BlogSpot decided to change their publishing layout, I have been unable to use bold, italics, and underline, and I am not presented with the option of placing a link inside my text. There is no spell-check available. If any of my blogger friends can help me with this irritating situation, I'd appreciate it. So, for those who are interested, here is the link to the article I am referring to:

This article offers a link to a PDF document of the actual Common Core Standards.

“Eighty to 90 percent of the reading standards in each grade require text-dependent analysis; accordingly, aligned curriculum materials should have a similar percentage of text-dependent questions,” say the criteria for grades 3-12.

Ok. Fair enough. A deep understanding of the text is always our goal. But here is where it makes me want to hurl my breakfast, because the murder of independent thought begins in Kindergarten, when children will be conditioned, by the time they are in 3rd grade:

“Materials should be sparing in offering activities that are not text dependent,” say the criteria for grades K-2. “Whether written or spoken, responses based on students’ background knowledge and the experiences they bring to school are not sufficient.”

Whoa. Hold on a minute. What our clueless common-core writers are TELLING us absolutely disgusted public school teachers to do is dismiss the educational value of a student's prior knowledge in drawing conclusions, making inferences, and yes, figuring out the theme of a story. I which case, I'd really LOVE to know how we are expected to teach higher-level thinking skills while reading. For example, evaluating a text is on top of the triangle of Bloom's Taxonomy. How is a child going to successfully evaluate a text when she is not encouraged to think about it in the context of HER world, her individual reality? Our students do not come to us as empty vessels. Quite the contrary, they wander into my classroom brimming with experiences and stories and opinions. They are excited to share these experiences and CONNECT their knowledge to what they read. The first and most popular "text connection" they use in their Reading Journals is the "text-to-self" connection, closely followed by "text-to-world", "text-to-media", and "text-to-text". What will happen to the teaching of text-connections? Will I be fired if my principal walks in and I am teaching the kids to make a text-to-world connection during my Non Fiction unit? Oh, NO.

We cannot, WILL NOT, take this away from them. If we did, they SIMPLY would not learn. It would be like taking their foundation of knowledge right out from underneath them and telling them, "Read this text, but only think about this text. Any prior knowledge you may have about anything in here is irrelevant. What you think does not, and will never matter." This approach is not only demoralizing to the students in the way that they are being told their life experience and previous book knowledge is completely worthless, but it is designed to transform creative, opinionated, independent-thinking citizens into complacent consumers, not questioning any ideas that are thrown into their intellectual path. That, my friends, is Government Control at its very ugliest. Once every public school (if public schools even survive the next decade) implements this abomination of our constitutional rights, we will be finished. Hitler kept his masses uneducated. He did not want his citizens to be independent thinkers. As a result, millions turned their heads out of fear and ignorance while an entire race (and any naysayers) was almost eradicated. Americans need to wake up!!!!

One may think my manner of denouncing the Common Core Standards is extreme, but I want my readers to realize just how DANGEROUS this is to our kids, and the future of our country. The implementation of Common Core Standards is only on SMALL example of the right-wing, corporate stronghold that has sickened my beloved America. Call me crazy, call me paranoid, and call me an over-the-top conspiracy theorist. But at least I've got my eyes open, and I am exercising my rights while I still have them.

"Some commentaries from the Left doubt that idealism has ever been much more than a cloak for darker purposes in educational reform, such as the production of a tranquilized work force that would learn enough--but not too much--in school." Exactly. This quote is from "Among Schoolchildren" , by Tracy Kidder, published in 1989...written over twenty years ago, it scarily holds more truth than ever, today. I highly recommend this book.

So, come September, I will take up my new position as Kindergarten Teacher ( was time for a change) and I will keep you all posted on how the Common Core affects Early Childhood Education. After all, little, cute five year olds come to school armed mostly with their life experiences, and this knowledge means the world to them at that age. Who doesn't know a five year old who loves to tell stories about themselves? For example:

"Um um um yesterday, I went to the park, and my daddy was being so silly, and and and he ran in the spwinkers, and got all wet, and then and then there was HUGE bug on his head, and it looked sooo cool, and I wanna find a book with bug pictures, I wanna find that same bug, do you have any bug books?"

Taking away the importance of a child's life experiences is an educational crime.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Test Data vs. Report Card Grades...and the Winner is....

So I am sure some of you are wondering how some of my students fared on the Torture Tests this year. Five out of my fifty-seven students did not pass the ELA exam, but all seven of my hold-overs did. And what does this tell us? That I did an OK job teaching Test Prep this year.

Yay for me.

You see, one might think that I feel proud, and in a strange sense I do. I feel proud that my students showed the discipline and respect to listen to me and apply the test-taking strategies I was blackmailed into teaching this year, regardless of that fact that it bored them to tears. This really speaks to their growth as the type of students our Deformers wanted them to become: robotic, complacent little drones, learning to read by picking apart small details in a text, viewing poetry as just a bunch of similes and metaphors and imagery, and reading a nonfiction text not for the purpose of learning and applying the content to their lives, but reading it to see if they have "reading skills".

So, I guess, in that sense, I do harbor a guilty feeling of accomplishment.

When the "pass/fail" scores came in in June (We haven't received actual numbers yet, yet they can tell us who passed and who failed? Sounds fishy to me...) I had the glorious job of telling five of my students that they had to go to Summer School, and if they did not pass the re-take in August, that they would have to repeat the entire grade. No Child Left Behind, unless she fails our unfair and subpar test twice in a row.

One of the boys knew he failed because he stopped taking the test halfway through the Multiple Choice portion (See post far below: Bubble Torture for the Kiddies). His mother claimed that she sent him to school with a fever on the day of the test. He shrugged the idea of Summer School off like it was No Big Deal. OK, he was lazy all year and failed my class anyway because he hardly did a lick of work, despite the fact that I kept him for detention, called his mother twice a month, and recommended appropriate and interesting books to him. So if it had actually been my decision, the verdict would have been the same.

Two of my girls passed my class with grades in the 80s. They came into my class reading on a 4th grade level and left reading on a 6th grade level. (See explanation of Running Records: one of my earlier posts entitled, High Stakes Testing: The Measurement of our Worth....)They worked hard all year to overcome the many challenges they faced in the journey of Literacy Education. Yes, they had attitudes and their behavior sometimes left much to be desired. But on the whole, these girls deserved a nice pat on the back for persevering all year long despite the many obstacles they faced living in the inner-city.  They both failed the test and have to go to Summer School, and were devastated. Never mind the grade I gave them. This sends them the message that no matter how hard they work, no matter what good grade their teacher gives them as a result, if they fail this test, they are DOOMED to spend the month of July in a sweltering classroom, faced with all the mundane tasks associated with Test Torture, which they were forced to do all year. In that case, what's the point in trying in class? "I worked hard, my teacher passed me, but I failed this impossible test. What's the point of even trying if I'm going to fail anyways?" Can you see how a twelve year old would arrive at this rationalization?

One girl's family had plans to travel to their native country this summer, and because they were not informed about this until Mid-June, I can imagine that must have compounded what was already a very difficult situation for that family. So now her parents have to choose between leaving her behind with a relative, not sending their family at all, or keeping her from Summer School and forcing her to repeat the sixth grade...WHEN I PASSED HER!!!!!

The final example of this display of mistrust for and disregard of the dedicated folks in my profession I will offer you is that of a student who did pass the test. He was a hold-over. He, too, refused to work all year. He never did his homework, failed many of my tests, and his attendance was terrible, despite my efforts to help him. His mother showed up to talk to me one week before school ended. I had never met her before that day because she never showed up to conferences, and her phone was always disconnected, so it was nearly impossible to reach out to her. I failed him for EVERY marking period. He simply did not, WOULD not earn a passing grade, despite the fact he reads ABOVE grade level. But....he passed the NYS ELA exam, so he MUST be ready to move on, right? He does not have to go to Summer School, gets to pass GO, and collect his passing test scores with no consequences.

Once again, the issue of consistency comes up. The students' test scores are not always consistent with the grades they actually EARN all year. What does this tell us about the measure of assessment that is being utilized in this system? That is is worth less than a square of toilet paper, and holds as much weight to me as the puffs of fur that fly out of my dog's tail in the summertime. It says next to NOTHING about what a child has REALLY learned all year, except that they know how to use process of elimination and fill in the bubble that McGraw-Hill claims to be the right one. And of course, these scores, the DATA has much more weight. About as much weight as a dumbell, or Andre The Giant. But it holds absolutley no value to me as a professional.

So....why am I here? Why do I write report cards? The grades my students earn on report cards are based on essays, class participation, behavior, homeowrk, quizzes, and unit tests. These grades reflect the hard work (or lack thereof) that my students put into my English class all year.  If the grades that I give my students on their report cards are not taken into consideration when deciding to send them to summer school or hold them back, then why am I even WRITING REPORT CARDS?

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Great MOVE

Hello, friends. My apologies for my six-week absence. I needed to percolate.

So, it is finally, finally summer vacation. NYC students and teachers really went to the Bitter End this year...I'm thinking next year we'll be there until the 4th of July. I have a sneaking suspicion that on the 28th, we may have been the only students and teachers in the country still in school. No matter, though, it's July 1st, and my relief is overwhelming. The first few days of summer I always think, "Wow. I came out of June ALIVE and still sane!"

June is quite a month. Aside from the excessive amount of cleaning and paperwork, emotions run very high among the staff and students. Especially at my school, where consistency is a foreign concept to the administration. It may help now to throw in a description of the Dungeon itself.

Our building is a 100 year old, traditional, four-story (five including the basement, which sits halfway above the ground) red-brick monstrosity, spreading over an entire city block. There are metal gratings on the windows and in the stairwells and very high ceilings from which long fluorescent light fixtures hang. The students take much pleasure in throwing their pencils in the air to see if they can land them on top of the fixtures.

The basement is rumored to be haunted by the spirit of a young girl who drowned in the swimming pool, which is currently sealed underneath the student cafeteria and filled with old books. In the basement, there is a long, tiled, skinny, door less, windowless hallway. It runs the entire width of the school and I will openly admit that I do not walk alone through it unless I absolutely HAVE to. I have often seen movement from my peripheral vision and felt the prickle of goosebumps when walking through. Although I digress, the reason for this creepy little tidbit is to add that even the building itself and the spirits within it are very unsettled.

My first year, I had a room on the second floor. My second year, I had a room on the third floor. My third year, I had a room on the first floor. Now I am slotted to teach on the fourth floor, which involved moving all materials up three flights all the way to the opposite end of the building with no elevator. Now, please don't think I'm special, or being singled out. I'm not. This year, EVERYONE had to move their classrooms. Last year, several people did. The program at this school is constantly changing every year.

I am going to speculate about the rationale behind this: keep us teachers on our toes and don't let us get too comfortable. After all, I'm sure we'll do a much better job when we have no idea what is headed our way. What message is this sending to our students? That teachers can be bullied and pushed around, therefore the kids feel at liberty to do the same, to us, and to one another.

In the process of this entire-school MOVE, we were given certain guidelines in writing, and given our new room numbers only two weeks before the end of the year, although we were not allowed to actually start moving until we only had one week left. Once that time came, we only were permitted to move our things during our lunch or prep periods. We could only move our things to our new room when that room was empty (and because of the packed-tight schedule, that was hardly ever). Yes, our students could help us move, but only during their lunch period, so if the new room wasn't empty then, we could not enlist their help. So of course, people felt pressured for time. Everyone scrambled to their new rooms to check the schedules of those rooms, and many people discovered that it would be literally impossible to move in that amount of time under the guidelines that the principal insisted on enforcing with a vengeance.

Imagine a school of over a thousand children and over eighty teachers all trying to move their classrooms all in the same week under those limitations? Oh and of course we are required to have rigorous, engaging lessons planned until the very last minute, don't forget that.

It's absolute mayhem. People are starting to bend under the pressure (and the heat on the 4th floor). People are trying their best to be their wonderful, accommodating selves, but under such stress, tempers tend to flare,  and territoriality may rear its ugly head every once in a blue moon. I'm not saying I experienced this myself, but anyone put into such a stressful situation will get snippy once in a while. As a whole, the staff at my current school is the kindest, friendliest, most supportive group of people I have ever had the pleasure of collaborating with. Because we are such good, nice teachers, we sucked it up, dealt with it, plastered smiles on our sweaty, flushed faces and did our very best to do what was asked of us by the administration because, well, we really had no choice. The GREAT MOVE was happening, weather we liked it or not. We had no voices in the matter. So mostly, we accepted it, banded together to make it possible, shut up, moved our shit, and continued to be doormats.

The last day of school, though only a week away, feels completely out of reach and we can't wrap our minds around it. Kids are slinking around the halls and the classrooms with their hair plastered to their heads. Teachers have blisters on their feet. I suffer from two horrible sinus migraines due to the dust that is kicked up during my packing. My hair looks like a Brillo pad. The humidity level is high so students are puffing on their inhalers and begging to leave the room for water every five minutes, but we are "not allowed" to send anyone out of the room 8th period, when the school is hottest and the kids are the thirstiest.

And here, my friends, is the cherry on top of the sundae:

No one can adhere to the impossible MOVING GUIDELINES and still get it all done in time, so naturally, in the last few days, the rules went out the window for some who simply had no choice. I suppose the Principal picked up on this, and decided this was her cue to go on the loudspeaker each day and loudly, obnoxiously berate us about not following her "guidelines for moving as stated in the memo", for all of the students to hear. Her tone of voice reminded me of a mother telling her four year old to get his finger out of his nose. This occurred three times during the final days. I was wondering at which point she would venture out of her little air-conditioned office and maybe pick up a box or even a roll of fade less paper and hike it up to the 4th floor to give someone a hand, considering is was SHE who created this abominable situation. I mean, EVERY teacher on the first floor was slotted to move up to the fourth. Why not chip in?

Usually, the end of the year is the time when we really get to enjoy our kids. You know, we are shoving standardized test prep down their throats all year and this makes it difficult to truly bond or strike up a meaningful conversation that doesn't involve the State Learning Standards. Let's face it, the State omits important educational components such as compassion, confidence-building, and self-expression. I've always loved June because of the open curriculum, the opportunity to teach whatever I want, such as kindness or poetry. Every year I love reading aloud and having meaningful political class discussions, even if my room is 95 degrees and the kids are at their craziest. At this time, I know my students well, we trust each other and have formed a family-type bond. Each morning I am greeted with a hug by some, a high-five from others, or a homemade card. One of my girls called me Ma by accident a few times. Well, this year, that went out the window too for EVERYONE. No time to bond or relish in relationships we have formed. We had to PACK and MOVE, now, now, now. As a result, our students lost the opportunity to see us in full free creative mode. Some didn't even say good-bye.
Please don't think that I am ungrateful. I am lucky to have this job that keeps a roof over my family's head. I am ETERNALLY grateful for the summer off, so I have the opportunity to collect myself and reboot and plan for the next year, because the curriculum constantly changes too. I do not like representing myself as one of those whiny teachers who "doesn't know how good she has it".  But SWEET JESUS, June was made much more stressful than it had to be, than it already is, by an administration who wields power like it is blindly throwing bricks at our heads all year.