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Why Teaching To The Test Is Destroying Teacher Individuality

Mar 27, 2008
I'm a Kindergarten Teacher and my partner is very open to allowing me to "do things according to my own style" of teaching. However, statewide and nationwide that doesn't seem to be the norm anymore, and it's destroying teaching and student learning as we know it.

Just take a look at your own "best" teachers growing up. Didn't they all kind of "do their own thing" rather than just read out of a textbook to peak your interest?

We've got to get back to letting teachers teach as they see fit! Would you go into a doctor's office, and say hey, don't use that knife, use the new one put out by Dupont, it'll cut faster. Only this doctor is comfortable with this blade and has used it for years to set records for surgery and recovery time.

Yet, in in our education system, we are letting top officials tell our teachers exactly what to teach, when to teach it, how to teach it, and regimenting time slots for learning to spelling 30 min, math 60 min, etc. When does it ever stop? The newest one in our district is "there will be one hour of ELD" every single day and you will have a time slot for it, or you will be called to the carpet on it.

I've got news for all the government know-it-alls out there. None of us grew up with such regimentation, and the best teachers on the planet, aren't going to stay regimented into instructional time slots and mandated teaching styles.

Listen to what my teachers did to forever leave their mark. There was Mr. K who had us do a virtual country simulation in the 5th grade. We all had to create our own country on paper. I think Mr. K was the only one who owned a computer at that time, and I think it was Bill Gates' first ever PC. It had a black and white screen with gold letters on it. But Mr. K didn't let that stop him!

Mr. K gave me the assignment of being the president of "Bilmore" the smallest of all the countries, and I was in charge of it's military, it's economy, it's communication with other countries, and it's budget. I was thrilled, and I had to learn about running a country in a big hurry!

Well, long story short, I, and my team of five other friends had to daily handle little papers or "memos" that Mr. K would hand us that were country challenges or rewards on a daily basis. Based on the fact that our country, "Bilmore" was the smallest geographically in the world, and the economy of some of the other countries was at risk, all of the other countries had written on their papers as a goal: Destroy Bilmore and take it over.

Well, I remember the day I received the paper from Mr. K that we had just had war declared on us by every single country, and that we were due to be attacked at 8am the following morning. Thus, as president, I was given the task, with our limited military (which did have a few good weapons, but a small fighting force) of protecting my country from a worldwide attack.

Well, I did what the best president's have done in this situation, and I got some advice from the smartest person in my life: my best friend "Chip." I called him, as young people do, on the phone as usual to see what's up, and I explained this Bilmore problem to him, and my need to make a presidential decision. His quick intellect amazed me. Chip told me "Take five of your biggest tanks, and place them on the Islands out from the shoreline of each port. Then order them to fire at a missle that you will launch at the same time that will detonate over the oncoming armies. Follow that through the smoke with all of your best F-15 fighters and have them shoot through the fog, so that the oncoming armies will not be aware of how many fighters are shooting at them, fooling them into thinking they are being counterattacked by a massive air strike.

Then he said, take some submarines and place them underneath the water at the same time, but also have several smaller military boats on the top of the water, making it look like you are undermanned and outgunned, so that the armies will come close enough to the tanks to destroy the oncoming enemy.

Chip's plan worked, and I ordered the tanks to fire at 8:00 am as five separate armies airborne and by sea attacked us full force. When the tanks fired they blew the first ships to smithereens and the smoke rose up higher than eyesight. I also ordered a full air strike by my best F-15 fighters, and they were all brand new planes, since we had such a small military force. The F-15's destroyed a dozen or so planes in the smoke, and then every single army retreated due to the smoke screen and they took evasive maneuvers to retreat at light speed. I also ordered my submarines to fire as soon as their huge ships had our small boats in their radar.

I saved my country that day. Bilmore went on to thrive and also become one of the strongest countries in the entire world, because we done of the armies to surrender, and took over there entire economy, money, oil, everything. That country was the one who swore an oath to one another: "We will destroy Billmore." Actually our F-15's cut them all down from the south side of the country and they were forced to surrender at gun and helicopter point!

Anyhow, I said all this to just make a point, this "Country Simulation" took about two months to complete. Yet, when all was said and done, I hand hands on experience about how to run a country and serve it well as President and Commander-In-Chief!

We need to stop making our teachers teach according to the textbook, and teach toward these state tests and nothing else. No Child Left Behind has incredible goals, but the implementation of those goals may be creating students who are more like learning robots, than those who can really deal with society at large.

My point is to remind officials that we can no more take the individuality out of teachers, than we can to say "All kids can and will act the same." Isn't that kind of like Communism? Yet, it's crept in, and here we are, as educators, being told that we "must increase test scores" at any cost.

Test scores will rise far above where they are now, when we give teachers the freedom to be themselves and yes, follow district mandates for increased test scores, but do it in a creative manner that only that individual teacher can express.

My next teacher I'll never forget was Mrs. Mercer. She had us do an 85 page research paper in high school! I never had to do that big of a paper in college or in my masters program. She prepared us. She locked us into success because she believed in us. She taught us how to stand up straight and walk into a room. She had others comment on our posture and demeanor.

Mrs. Mercer wrote a reference letter to a future employer for me that I keep as a part of every resume package I've ever submitted. It said: "It is the Don Alexander's of this world, that make it great. I've never seen someone before that exemplifies the term "gentleman" as much as Don Alexander does. Those words changed my life. Those words were the reason I graduated from college with a 3.9 GPA and went on to become a Teacher and an Assistant Principal.

Yet today, it seems in this mad world, we are so all consumed with test scores, test scores, and test scores! Yes, we need to score high on tests. But we also need to look harder at the individuality of the learner, and most of all the individuality of the teachers.

I fear God that if we don't stop taking the individuality out of our teachers, we may become like some third world country that has no real direction or dreams for our students. If this is America, and we know that it is our country, we must defend it from those who would come into our classrooms, and force our teachers to teach how they see fit.

And...if we don't do something quickly about it, it'll be our grandkids that will suffer the most. Thus I urge you, write your congressman, get involved at School District Meetings, and do everything you can to insure that our teachers are not being told how to teach. That is the greatest "disservice" I can think of to our precious students.

Protect American education and vote this year for a candidate who will give teachers back their creative freedoms, but most of all, vote and pray daily for your child to get the Mr. K's and Mrs. Mercers of this world, and pray that our government doesn't do anything to discourage them from doing what they do best: "Teach."
About the Author
Don Alexander is owner of leading-online-business.com
and writes on a variety of subjects. To learn more
about this topic Don recommends you visit http://www.leading-online-business.com or http://www.weneedhomeworkers.blogspot.com
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