Sunday, November 3, 2013

Why Some of Our Best Teachers are Leaving the Classroom- Letter to Her Students from a Georgia Teacher

To My Students,

            I did not return to the classroom this year and I want to apologize.  I am truly sorry for having left you.  It was the hardest decisions I have ever made. I want you to understand why I left.  It had nothing to do with you.  I still love you and believe in you.  You are still amazing and you can do anything you want to do.  I did not give up on you.  I left to fight for you. 
            I saw you struggling with Common Core skills.  Even with the new curriculum from the district, no matter how I broke it down for you I could see you didn’t understand.  I saw the frustration on your faces.  And when time ran out and we had to take the county’s test (on the county’s schedule), I saw the tears roll from your eyes.  You failed.  I saw you missing school more days than normal.  I saw you with long sleeves covering up the cutting scars on your arms.  I saw how the sparkle in your eyes dimmed. I saw the small bald spot on your head where you had pulled out your hair.  And it wasn’t just in my class.  You hated going to math.  You came early everyday for homework help, but it didn’t make any difference.  You still could not understand.   
            I want you to know none of this is your fault.  It is not you.  I know the school, the county and the state call it “rigor.”  That is a horrible word.  Look it up in the dictionary for me.  Rigor is for dead people.  You are not failing because it is too hard.  You are not failing because you are not working hard enough.  You are not failing because of your teachers.  You are failing because Common Core was not written by teachers. Common Core was not written to help you.  Let me explain why this hurts you so much.
            Your brain, as it develops, can only learn certain things at certain times.  Common Core is trying to force you to learn things your brain is not ready to learn.  Researchers for decades have found that the things Common Core requires you to do are impossible until you reach high school, at the earliest.  No matter what your teachers do to get you to learn it, you aren’t going to be able to.  There is nothing wrong with you.  Your brain was designed perfectly.  Common Core standards were not.
            Common Core was written by businessmen trying to make money off of you.  You and your learning are a grand experiment in corporate profits.  If you fail at school, if your teachers fail to teach you, these corporations can sell more books, workbooks, tests, software and technology to schools and even to your parents to try at home.  None of it will work.  These same businessmen want to convince states to let them and their companies take over your schools.  Your parent’s tax dollars would then go to these companies.  Over $600 billion is spent on education every year in this country.  This money should go to your education, not to private companies. It is very similar to what was done to prisons several years ago. 
            Common Core is the first time in the history of this country that a privately written and copyrighted plan has become public policy.  There is no research to back it and it has never been tested.  Politicians are pushing it because these corporations are giving them money to push it. 

            When I left I met with members of your Board of Education and told them what was happening.  They ignored me.  I went to the local newspaper and they ignored me too.  When I spoke to the state Senate education committee they dismissed me as a political nut job.  When I came back to chaperone your fall dance I was told I was “no longer one of you” and I could not come in because of my position on Common Core.  Ghandi once said, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”  We will win.  We will win for you and every student after you.  This is not political.  This is for the future leaders of our country.  These corporations don’t want to teach you how to think.
            It is time for you to talk to your parents. Help them understand that opting you out of state testing will protect your personal information as well as stop the data that is being used to unfairly judge you and your teachers. Schools where more than 80% of kids have been opted out are cancelling these stressful tests that measure nothing.  There is a new test coming to replace the CRCT, which is why politicians like Governor Deal and Superintendent Barge want to keep Common Core.  Have your parents demand a portfolio of your work be kept and that your hard work be used to decide if you should go on to the next grade, not a random test.  Any test not written by and graded by your teachers should never be allowed in the classroom. 
            Please do not worry about me.  I am strong and people have called me worse names and banned me from much better places. Standing up for what is right is not always the easy thing.  I knew that when I left my classroom.  I have 32,000 other teachers from all over the country who are standing with me. I have education experts and child psychologists standing with me.  I have politicians standing with me.  I have famous authors standing with me.  And the group is growing. 
            Just this week I got an email from Judy Blume, author of famous children’s classics like Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Blubber, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, Forever, and Tiger Eyes. She shared with me that she was a horrible test-taker.  She is very grateful that she is not in school taking the kinds of tests you are taking.  Can you imagine how horrible it would be if our favorite authors gave up because they could not do well on standardized tests that meant nothing?  I don’t want to find out. 
            Talk to your parents and let them know what is happening in your classrooms.  Every time you take a test or a survey, tell your parents.  Be brave and keep making me proud.  You can be anything you want to be. I am always here for you.

Mrs. Meg Norris, Ed.S.
7th Grade (former) teacher



Mo Brock said...

A few weeks ago, as I helped my granddaughter with her math homework, I complained that the 4th grade word problems were so poorly written that it was difficult to understand what was being asked. I reflected that the questions required a foundation in algebra and that even a high school student would have difficulty answering.

I now understand that I was seeing homework written by a corporation.

Unknown said...

Absolutely fantastic! And let's not go into how they are funding local school board campaigns to get their puppets to run boards, hire incompetence, give contracts to their associates by privatizing areas of the public schools, destroying districts so they can take them over, and continue their reign if terror for decades. But, I digressed!

Pooh said...

I have to say that I don't see why the common core is so bad. Mo.. those math word problems were made by either her teacher, or maybe the text book publisher. The common core does 1 thing... it says what the child should be able to do by the end of a particular grade. The school has the freedom to decide how to get there, and even how to assess that the child has gotten there. I have been teaching for 10 years and have done a lot of educational research, and I can't see any big problems with the CC. (Most independent groups say that these standards are better than those use in 2/3 of our states, as good as most of the rest, and onlyu surpassed by those used in Mass. and 1 other state. I don't know if these are perfect, but I simply don't see where all of the alarm is coming from.

tfrogger said...

Pooh, thank you for your comments. I agree; I don't know where all of the alarm is coming from. As a secondary math teacher with 15 years in the classroom I welcome the common core and the shift away from state mandated curriculum written by publishers not teachers. The common core was written for better conceptual understanding appropriate for age and grade levels. And yes, districts, schools, and teachers have the freedom to develop curriculum to best meet the needs of their students while holding everyone to the same standard. Why is that bad? The reality is that publishers will lose money as teachers are creating their own curriculum which means less money for businesses And corporations also. I have been researching this for the last three years as I am now helping the implementation and transition in my own district. I understand that most people are afraid of change but this is not a bad one for our future generations.

Unknown said...

Wow,this is right on the money!!I recently retired for many of the same reasons after teaching Special Ed. K-6 for over 30 yrs. for the NYC DOE. What a shameful horror, forcing us to try to teach these struggling learners this awful, inappropriate common core curriculum. And then get blamed when they do not pass these ridiculous tests! I just couldn't be part of this scam any longer!!

Anonymous said...

Maybe because unlike your system, other systems are shoving things not written by the teachers down the throats of all. They are taking away the individual of the teacher. Some systems are making it to where a robot or computer could be the teacher. The focus is not on the student; it is on the almighty test at the end of the semester. I am a high school math teacher with twelve years experience. In my opinion, you shouldn't take students who have been spoon fed through Jr. High and then expect them to switch to discovery learning. It just doesn't happen like the flip of a switch. It's not that easy.

Damien said...

I completely agree with this article. I am dating a teacher that has had to deal with the many problems that CC causes, not to mention everything else that goes into being a teacher and dealing with a large class of students. I have a child and a nephew in school and math is becoming a nightmare. tons of teachers hate teaching this corporate crap for a reason. Elementary school work shouldn't be difficult for a mother to explain to her child. stuff like this goes on all the time and not just in schools. In our workplaces it happens too. At my job we have engineers constantly barking new orders around of how to do our job, new instructions, different plans etc.. And they have no Idea what its like to be on the floor or do the job. So why is the department of education letting this happen? that's the bigger question. It teachers that should be developing curriculum. ..Or at least have a part in it... But that's never going to happen because this country runs on greed, and as the author of this article states, its designed for failure to make additional money. EVERYTHING we know is coming to this, everyone is substituting cheaper materials and charging more and more money. look at the cars we drive. they're made with cheap plastic parts that break or wear easily or are made so complicated that a common repair bill or part for your car costs a small fortune. I think its an absolute shame to jeopardize our country future but incorporating such garbage into the education system of our children. The teachers should have more power and more of a role in developing curriculum than they are given. they are taking away the art of teaching and those of you that disagree are just naive or haven't experienced it first hand.

Oretha said...

May I please post this to I am trying to raise the flag on common core. My goddaughter is in the 4th grade and I DESPISE this program.

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