At the risk of more chiding because I find encouraging words from a teacher – who may belong to a union – I am suggesting you read Lacking Accountability, Doing Just Fine, A Teacher’s First Classroom–50 Years Ago, by Sidney Trubowitz.
[The] persistent soundings about accountability and test results have caused me to look back to the beginning of my own career in education more than 50 years ago, when I was an elementary school teacher in New York City. How did I perform as a new teacher? How was I evaluated? What pressures had an impact on me? How did standardized-test scores affect me? How did the absence of strict accountability measures influence what I did?
As I look back, I recall ideas and information I picked up from the occasional workshop or conference I attended. I tried to implement the principles of the “New Mathematics” approach being advocated at that time. In social studies, I introduced committee work, as was suggested in the curriculum bulletins. And I organized the class into groups based on reading ability. But it is not the problems or benefits of these methods I recall. It is, rather, the exciting events, the vivid experiences, the fun times, and the different accomplishments of my students that I remember.
Mr. Trubowtiz offers a sampling that almost any homeschooler could cite:
Walks in the neighborhood to find an anthill we could transfer to a large jar in our classroom, and observing the ants constructing their tunnels and transporting the bits of sugar we had inserted;
Biweekly after-school trips, with kids packed into my old Chevy, to the Queensboro Public Library to collect books for classroom use in the absence of a school library;
Reading E.B. White’s Stuart Little and subsequently writing a play based on the book for presentation at a school assembly in the auditorium;
Establishing a writer’s corner to which a child could retreat at any time of the day, if he or she had an idea for a story or poem.
Then he adds:
Toward the end of that first year, as I was leaving one day, my principal called me aside. “Your students did amazingly well on the citywide test,” he said. “Their scores skyrocketed.” I was pleased that he was pleased. But beyond that, I gave it little thought. I remembered that a serious tone had accompanied the distribution of test booklets from the district’s central office, but most of that day had slipped from my memory.
Looking at his experiences 50 years ago in the light of today’s educational climate this “professor emeritus of education at Queens College” asks:
Were I a teacher today, would I be going to professional meetings whose focus is on skills such as helping children avoid mistakes as they move from test booklet to answer sheet, rather than on topics such as encouraging expressive writing and preparing for group work, topics I remember from meetings 50 years ago?
Would I have permitted one boy to take the time to concentrate on making a soap sculpture of the Acropolis instead of focusing on workbook exercises? Would I have had the courage to move away from the security of the basal reader and give my students freedom to choose books that interested and involved them?
‘Lacking accountability, doing just fine’ describes the homeschooling I have been fortunate to know. I find I can take the title and most of this article away as a positive arguments for homeschooling, but Prof. Trubowitz is focused on teaching. He closes by asking if he would advise his own children to take up teaching or, “would I have steered them toward a profession that gave freer rein to their creativity and imagination?”
I wonder if the Prof. Trubowitz’s of the world have the courage to ask the same question about everybody else’s kids stuck in a system which stifles creativity and imagination?