On Monday and Tuesday of next week, I will have the opportunity to see one of my "heros" in action. I will be traveling to small town in northern Indiana and watching Penny Kittle do her magic with kiddos from that school. To get ready for those two days, I have been reading her newest book: Write Beside Them. What a wake-up call the first two chapters were for me. I have been thinking of them all weekend. Her words made me rethink what I believe in as an educator. The second chapter is titled: This I Believe
As a second grade teacher in a rural school, I was fortunate to be able to study under people like JoAnn Portalupi and Carl Anderson. I became a fan of process writing where children had a voice and a choice. I watched in awe as young children put words on paper that allowed them to come alive...to speak from the heart and make a difference in the world around them. They suddenly had power. This was a new concept, but I was fortunate to have administrators that saw children going deeper and thinking at a higher level because they had a share in their own education. They allowed me to continue with my teaching of writing. I became a bit of a rebel for this new cause.
Now, as a facilitator in one of the biggest urban school districts in my state, I have been sucked into the jargon of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, otherwise known as No Child Left Behind. The concept is a good one, but it still comes back to the kids. The tests we are required to give are for formative evaluation. They are for driving our instruction and figuring out how we can better help children. I understand that and even believe in that. But still, teachers make the difference, not tests. We have to remember that.
Last week, I had a part in frustrating one of the best teachers I have seen in a real long time. She is me. She is what I was. I look at her and her kiddos and remember how I felt back in a time. Then I took a real long look at what I was becoming and I did not like it one bit. I won't do it. I will not give up on what I believe to be best for kids. It might mean my job. It might mean I get called in for not following district procedures. I no longer care. I will fight for what I believe.
I have to rememeber over and over again: Teachers make the difference NOT tests. What power---what opportunity--lies in those hands. (This came from Penny!) I can't wait to hear her this week. I hope to become even stronger in my belief!