Why Did I Go Back to Teaching in the First Place?

Time for me to continue my exploration into the why behind my career change. Given the level of benefits I enjoy at my current job, and that I would have had similar benefits at IT jobs over the last 12 years, all other things being equal, I should never have returned to teaching in 2002. All things weren’t equal back then, and looking back to that day shows what’s missing in teaching today.

Teaching was already in trouble by 2001. It was in trouble in 1991, when the TAAS test first came out. Holding schools responsible for their test results started that year in Texas, and it’s produced 22 years of school administrators gaming the system. It’s also produced 22 years of erosion in academic standards. If students only need to master certain skills and competencies, then only those areas are drilled on, repeatedly and at length, so that the weaker students master those things. The devil can take the average and above-average students, so long as they put out a passing performance on the state-mandated tests.

The state can respond by increasing the volume of material required to succeed on the tests, which in turn results in districts reaching for curriculum-by-the-numbers solutions. Set a schedule for a course, and adhere to that schedule like it was a Fascist train schedule. Where a teacher’s professional judgment and background used to be able to make a difference in how a teacher ran a classroom, that discretionary element is no longer welcome in education.

Or, rather, if a teacher isn’t moving in lockstep, that’s evidence that can be used against him or her should his or her students take a dip on the mandatory test scores. That makes me have to ask why should the state even bother hiring teachers? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just hand out a stack of workbooks and tell kids to finish them? Given that the primary duty of every teacher is actually the custodial supervision of minors, why not build schools more along the lines of minimum-security detention facilities and get high-school graduate proctors to supervise the rote lessons?

I went back to teaching in 2002 because a teacher could make a difference in the way he or she approached his or her subject. We were free to emphasize areas we had a passion for, and different teachers meant different focuses and styles. Not so anymore. Different teachers means different personalities, but the material has to be the same, across the board. Somewhere between 2002 and 2013, things changed where I was and I found myself doing a job that really should be done by a computer: presentation of material and verification of that presentation via a pre-made subject matter quiz.

Children no longer learn. They don’t even memorize. They echo.

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