Am I a BAT?

For those not in the know, BAT is an acronym for “BadAss Teacher”.  The tagline is “This association is for every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for real teaching and learning…”

On one level, I recognize that I am in that I refuse to be blamed for things that I cannot control.  Nor am I so passionate or engrossed in teaching that I will try to get blood from a turnip.  The old adage you can do or be anything you want isn’t quite true.  No amount of work will change some things, and it’s absurd to spend one’s energy in a foolish pursuit.

That said, I don’t object to testing to see how things are going.  I assess my students regularly to see where they are in taking something they know and applying.  If they can’t, well they don’t know it well enough or at all.  As a rule, I object to multiple choice questions.  They allow for a lot of guessing without a lot of analysis.  Then again, you don’t have to 120% KNOW everything so… 

What I do know is that I, as a teacher,  feel scapegoated when I read about educational reform.  I find it absolutely absurd that the ONLY thing in education that needs to be change is the teacher.  It’s like blaming the assembly line for poor car design.  They must be doing something wrong ’cause the car isn’t selling.  Well… if it’s a mechanical/line error, then yes.  If it’s a design error then no.

I don’t think people quite understand that teachers DO NOT have a lot of autonomy.  Our job is to get kids to master a defined set of skills in a defined set of time.  Normally we’re also given HOW we will teach that material, as well as the curriculum for which we must show fidelity.  How can you blame someone for following orders and delivering the materials EXACTLY as they were told to?

Then, of course, the battle cry is that we should know better than to blindly follow a pacing calendar that doesn’t allow for appropriate review, or we should know to bring in topics of interest to students, etc.

Given those two contrasting, and very different edicts, you can see there is NO winning for a teacher.

I would LOVE to see reform.  I’ve written of it often.  I want a longer school day.  I want teachers to have flexible hours allowing for those who are morning people to arrive early and leave when they have lost their mojo, but to also allow for nightowls to come later and stay later. This would open up a campus for longer periods of time allowing kids to get before and after services.

I talk about wanting smaller classes so that kids are TRULY known.  We talk about the importance of doing this in the early grades, but it’s key in middle school where kids start checking out.  Only their bodies are big.  Puberty kicks them in the ass and the head.  Do you think we really HONOR our students by punishing them when they don’t have executive function skills (which are rarely taught or even modeled at home these days)?  How do we help them be their best when we’re punishing them for being teenagers?

We talk about every child being the same, but it’s not true.  Some are cogs, some are engines, some are tires, some are dashboards.  Sure, we’re making a “car”, but we can’t treat every piece the same.  Unfortunately, that kind of connection and differentiation means a higher cost to education.  So rather than finding materials, locations, and people, we just plop the kids in front of computers to give them their differentiation. 

Every time I’ve presented new ways to educate or structure the system, I have been ignored or informed that there is NO MONEY FOR THAT.  However, there is money for technology.  A lot of it.  Not for kids, but for TVs to stick the kids in front of.  A simple set of algorithms to check right or wrong, but not to analyze errors, correct misunderstandings, or even ask about new bands or how their evening went.

In that respect, I am very much a badass teacher.  I want what is best for my students.  I am offended and insulted for them when they are punished for their low test scores and given LESS interesting education.  I am mad as hell that I’m being told to make sure the kids are ready for the future.  What future?  Given the current reform movement of give every kid a computer and get the computer to teach them,  their future involves being morbidly obese, not interacting with each other, and stuck on a spaceship ala WALL-E. I can’t help you with that.  More to the point, I won’t help you with that.

I want a well-educated, thoughtful, critical nation filled with thinkers who don’t accept the status quo.  I want REAL reform that allows me to do that.

Everything else is just talk.  And it’s cheap.

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