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04 October 2004: The Only Republican Teacher I Know (1 of 3)

On July 14, 2004 the AP ran a short article discussing Jenna Bushís plans to begin teaching fourth grade at a charter school this fall. The article included this quote from the First Lady:

My main advice for Jenna and for all teachers in all schools is to remember to treat every child with respect. Thatís what our children deserve.

Maybe some other time, Iíll consider making a list of the ways that teachers can respect their students. Right now, though, Iíd like to jump on the bandwagon and give Jenna some advice myself:

Whatever happens, never ever forget that you are the teacher. That means your job is to teach. Any time a student demonstrates that they donít know something, it is your job to teach it to them. It doesnít matter how many times you may have tried to teach it to them in the past. If they are demonstrating that they donít know something, you have to teach it to them because you are the teacher. It could be behavior choices or times tables, but whatever it is, if they are showing you they donít know it, donít get angry or frustrated about it, just teach it to them again because you are the teacher.

05 October 2004: The Only Republican Teacher I Know (2 of 3)

This seemingly obvious bit of wisdom was given to me by the director of my credential program. At the time that he addressed the class with this nugget, I didnít really get what he was saying. I couldnít understand why he had to repeat himself over and over. ďIím the teacher,Ē I thought, ďokay, I get itÖĒ But, as it turned out, it wasnít until I was there, in my classroom, with my students, that I truly could appreciate the point this wise teacher of teachers was trying to make.

The subtext of this simple and repetitive message is powerful: Take responsibility. Iím not trying to devalue the ideals of respect as the First Lady encourages, but even teachers who tout respect often forget to take responsibility for the teaching of it. So, my instructor says, take responsibility. Not only that, but be patient. Understand that being the grown up and the teacher puts you in a unique position of power.

06 October 2004: The Only Republican Teacher I Know (3 of 3)

Teachers and politicians alike have many explanations for why public schools are not equipping students with necessary knowledge and skills. As current legislation indicates, many of these explanations hinge on the belief that teachers havenít taken enough tests. But thatís really just the beginning. A myriad of voices are citing inadequate student nutrition, dysfunctional family lives, ineffective or inhumane materials, overcrowded classrooms, inexperienced administrators, language barriers, poverty, and racism as possible reasons for the failure of our public schools. Iím not going to discuss the validity of any of these so-called reasons. I bring them up only to illustrate that the culture of public education is one of blame and excuses. My expectation is that Miss Bush, in her first year of teaching, will experience some of these factors; probably not all and maybe not most. More troubling to me is the likelihood that she will not encounter teachers with a grave sense of responsibility.

07 October 2004: Will This be on the Test? (1 of 3)

Weíre all familiar with the nature/nurture argument. Weíve all heard that people are products of their environment. Most of us have even witnessed students dramatically change attitudes and behaviors in response to their current surroundings. Some of us have experienced it ourselves. Well, Iím sorry to say that there is a new, ironic example of this phenomenon. Itís called Will This be on the Test?, and it is a troubling new trend in learning. Certainly, there can be no wonder of the roots. Since critical thinking skills cannot be assessed en masse, our education-savvy legislature has decided that standardized tests are the only way to measure competency in todayís students. Nothing new, right? Well, there seems there is a bit of a twist.

08 October 2004: Will This be on the Test? (2 of 3)

Recently, a teacher was discussing reading with a group of students. She was very excited to show them the types of literature they would be studying over the course of the year. One student interrupted her with a question that sent her reeling: simultaneously evoking shock, discouragement, and anger. The question? ďWill this be on the RICA?Ē

The Reading Instruction Competence Assessment is one of the newest ways for credentialing commissions to determine the teaching skills of their applicants. Itís easy and convenient, as neither actual students nor actual teaching is necessary to determine oneís skill in teaching literacy. But Iím not here to tout the current trend (is that too weak?), no, stampede towards standardized tests in all levels of education. This one singular example of a teacher preparation student questioning the usefulness of her critical literacy class speaks volumesónot about teaching so much as learning.

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teaching quote of the day

Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.

- Chinese proverb

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