When I look at the pictures of the suffering sea birds in the Gulf, I see an apt metaphor. Being a good teacher in this school district forces one to feel like one of those sea birds covered in so much muck it’s impossible to fly.
That pretty much sums up the reason for my impending departure from the district at the end of this term.
Naturally, I look around at the kids who were counting on me next year, and at the circle of chairs in my room, and I sob. I think about what I will leave behind--a solid reputation, a pretty good schedule, a strong purpose in life that allows me to sleep at night--and I sob. I think about the ease of slipping back into my routine, bumps and all, next year instead of trying something new, and I sob. I think about the few colleagues who understand me and see me as a valuable peer and good friend, and I sob. I think about losing the key to the gate near my classroom, which I finally got after years of begging, and I sob. I think about cleaning out my room and closing the door for the last time, and I sob. . . .
Then I think about what I might be missing next year:
a culture that allows middling teachers to present mind-numbing, misguided in-services designed to pander to the promoters of standardized tests and the bogus data these tests generate
a culture that uses “data” as if that data were sacrosanct, objective, and instructive, when it is most often skewed and misleading
a culture that blithely hires sows ears and spends all its resources trying to turn them into silk purses (at great expense to those who were silk purses to begin with)
a culture where enormous class size kills the ability to offer class variety
a culture that doesn’t understand that enormous classes will mean that either the lowest or the highest performing kids will be left behind
a culture where so many kids who have no interest in education get to oppress, practically with impunity, anyone who dares take the enterprise seriously
a culture where rude kids don’t know what rude means
a culture that tolerates back-sniping teachers whose professional jealousies and unchecked inadequacies ruin any hope for change
a culture where standardized testing eats into so much class time it’s really testing the testing instead of teaching and learning
a culture that is willfully blind to its tendency to defend and promote only the status quo
a culture of mediocrity and enforced enervation
a culture where isolation rather than collegiality is the route to survival
a culture bent on moving towards teacher accountability, an ultimately meaningless pursuit since administrator and teacher standards vary so widely
a culture that believes self-esteem is generated by empty praise instead of hard work and genuine accomplishment
a culture that, to borrow from the late coach John Wooden, mistakes activity for achievement
Hmm, so why am I still sobbing?