Monday, January 14

My Little Dance in the Hallway

You can ask my mama, when I get happy, I do a little dance. It's an unconscious action, like blinking. I've done it my entire life. Everyone noticed before I did.
In the hallway today, though, I did let my little dance turn into a grand performance, between rooms 219 and 209. I smiled, didn't care who saw me (far from the days when I cared about what the students thought about me, and I've already told the staff I'm the looniest one in the lot).
Why am I so happy?


January 15th, 2008 is here in just a few hours. Tomorrow is the beginning of the end.

The end of the single and double periods of nothing but test review and test preparation strategies.
The end of department meetings with an ELA coach who is all criticism and not an ounce of support (fucking bitch!) (spirits, forgive me)
The end of making them take multiple diagnostic and predicitive assessments.
The end of multiple-choice, short response, extended response homework.
The end of reminding them how many multiple choice answers they need to answer correctly to reach a certain level.
The end of mountains of Kaplan test strategy workbooks.
The end of ELA Test Vocabulary Problem of the Day.
The end of the daily ten-minute morning speech over the PA about 12 Test Taking Tips.
The end of the principal calling student by their 2007 level. "Hey, come here my Level 3! Tuck in that shirt. And don't let me catch you sitting with all those Level 2s in Ms. Wilmington's class."
The end of spreadsheets filled with numbers and letters and scores and percentages and green arrows pointing up and red arrows pointing down that have served as the students' portfolios since September.
The end of talk of incentives, such as Nintendo Wii and a trip to Great Adventure, for those who score a Level 3 or higher.
The end of test prep seminars instead of art & gym (though you best believe I made sure to do a little vinyasa yoga with them at the beginning of class).

At least, it's the end for me. It's only the beginning for the math department. Poor souls, they have no fucking clue what they are about to experience at the hands of our relentless principal. As the kids say, "She's extra." When a math teacher caught me doing my little dance in the hallway, she accused me of "rubbing it in." "Oh no, honey," I said. "I'm just happy. Come March, we'll both do a little dance in the hallway."

No Child Left Behind has placed teachers in both the oppressed and oppressor roles. We are both the foundation for our students' to pass these exams (set up for them to fail) and their greatest enemy in how we are instructed (some might even say forced) to present the test material to them. It's like my students we're so afraid of this test they simultaneously sought me out for reassurance and didn't want to be anywhere near me and all my test-babble.
It sucks to be told by almost each of my thirty-two students that I've become meaner as the test day has drawn closer. It is terrible to feel like my instruction is not instruction at all, but strategies and jargon and numbers. It is terrible to watch my students feel as if their entire self-worth rests upon a number. A lot of them time I wondered who I am doing this for? Where can I make room for my love of language and literature? Why haven't I been willing to take that risk, put down the workbook and pick up a story I love and share it with them? I have no good excuses. Buy my kids... they have been forgiving in ways I know I could never be. They understood me when I finally began expressing to them that I hate this test more than they probably do, that I do not stand by it or for it. That was the risk I took. I could've made them resist the test even more. But they became, to my surprise, acutely aware of my situation as an un-tenured classroom teacher at this particular school with this micromanaging, omnipresent principal, in the face of this exam. And from that point on, our attitudes changed: We hate this shit, let's do what we need to do, get it over with, and then enjoy the next five months of school. They have worked their asses off for me, and for themselves, as they really do want to do well on this exam.

So, how am I celebrating the end?

On Friday, my sixth graders & I are having a ridiculous pizza cake soda chips brownies ice cream and macaroni&cheese party.
We're going to see The Great Debaters.
And finally, we're going to do something we've only been able to do one other time since September: we're going to read a book and we're going to talk about the book we're reading. Darnell Rock Reporting is first on the list.

We've got plays for Black History Month.
We've got a photodocumentary.
We've got debates.
We've got interviews with the people of Bed-Stuy.
We've got performances in the parks.
We've got nearly empty journals to fill.
We've got Poetry Month in Harlem, NY.
We've got a classroom library full of class sets of some pretty amazing novels.
I'll be damned if we just went through an unspeakable amount of stress, just to end up so exhausted that the good ideas go to waste.

Tomorrow is the beginning.

1 comment:

havestrength said...

oooh i wish i could come to your class for the rest of the year instead of working! darnell rock reporting is a VERY good book! :)