I’m one of the worst teachers in my state

We must hate teachers. I've won awards, my kids thrive. But thanks to crazy tests, I'm being shamed by Florida

Topics: Life essays, Education, Teachers, I'm one of the worst teachers in my state, Editor's Picks, Common Core, Michelle Rhee, Diane Ravitch, ,

I'm one of the worst teachers in my state (Credit: aimy27feb, bogdan ionescu via Shutterstock/Salon)

I didn’t think I’d like teaching, but instantly loved it when I gave it a shot, and was immediately acclaimed as having a natural affinity for it. I love the children, learning, and seeing them learn and grow. I work tirelessly to give them engaging experiences that bring learning to life.

In the past decade, I have been greatly moved and honored to win numerous awards and been nominated for more still. My curriculum night presentations are always standing room only, because I’m the funny teacher who is going to make that half-hour come to life with hands-on science, leaving them running to the administration to sing my praises.

I initiated and continue to run the chess and drama clubs with no remuneration. I do get a small stipend for being the academic games coordinator, running the Mathletes team and spelling bee for the school, along with keeping the staff and students informed of enrichment opportunities like academic competitions. I organize the field trips for my grade level and a trip for fourth- and fifth-graders to spend three days at an oceanographic institute in the Florida Keys.

My own fifth-grade gifted students will end this year with a full understanding of three Shakespearean plays, as class sets of these and other texts were secured through my Donors Choose requests. Saturday, I’ll be the designated representative picking up free materials for my school. I write the full year’s lesson plans over the summer (then tweak them as I go).

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All of this is highly pleasurable to me, as my efforts pay off in children happily learning at high levels. Like so many of us here, I’m a doer, always thinking what more I can bring to my school and my students. Two years ago, I was lauded for my students receiving extremely high state test scores.

So, I hope you will excuse me if I’m a little grumpy that my name will be printed in newspapers and posted online as an inferior teacher in need of serious improvement.

Last year, many of my students had the highest scores on the state tests possible the year prior — a 5 out of 5. That’s how they get into my class of gifted and high-achieving students. Except, last year they raised the bar so that the same fifth-graders who scored 5′s in fourth grade were much less likely to earn 5′s in math and reading in 5th grade. Some still did score 5′s in math and reading, yet were still deemed not to have made sufficient progress because they did not score as high within the 5 category as they had the year before.

It’s like expecting the members of an Olympic pole vaulting team to all individually earn gold medals every time the Olympics come around, regardless of any other factors affecting their lives, with the bar raised another 5 inches each go-round. In a state where 40 percent of students pass the fifth-grade science test, 100 percent of my students passed; but no one (at the state level) cares about science scores.

Therefore, I suck. A media outlet filed a lawsuit to have the right to publish the names and scores of teachers, because the people have the right to know which teachers are excellent and which teachers suck. Now they know. They won’t understand. I don’t understand. None of it makes any sense. But, they’ll know, as my name will be associated with teachers who just can’t deliver, with no regard for actual learning, for instilling the love of learning, for high scores on observations … None of it matters.

A teacher in California committed suicide a few years back after his name was published in the papers for the same reasons. I don’t take it nearly that seriously; still, it’s an affront, and just one of many reasons so many of us throw in the towel rather than take the nonsensical abuses that come with teaching. I keep hoping common sense will kick in and start reversing the negative trends in education. For the children, their families, and for the teachers — who are actual people, usually with our own families and serious concerns about education.

I keep hoping …

Simone Ryals is an elementary school teacher in Florida. This is reposted from her blog, at http://simoneryals.blogspot.com/.

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