“The most important piece of technology in any classroom is the second hand of the clock. The purpose is to teach millions of students the identical prayer: Please God, make it move faster.”
– Derrick Jensen, Walking on Water
That prayer rings true for any student and for every teacher. Exaggerations aside, unfortunately, that little prayer has become my daily mantra. “How are you doing?” is a question that has been asked of me abundantly during this mid-winter break and my answer is always the same. There’s no sugar coating the fact that i’m merely “okay”. In contrast to the catastrophic mess that I was during the first semester of my first year of teaching, I’m am still a catastrophic mess but have simply accepted it.
It is depressing to look back on my “career” as a teacher and wallow in the constant political and administrative pressures looming over my shoulders. It’s all about the scores, the stats, the grades and less and less about the quality of education. Quality – a word that the NYC DOE has managed to corrupt. We’ve stained it and we cannot return. At times I am disgusted with the choices that I make, the words that come out of my mouth. The 65 I am coerced to give instead of the 40 that is deserved… and let’s be real here. I am not on a power trip, unjustly deciding the “worth” and “merit” of my students — but when a student has been absent, not present, for the majority of his/her learning – the 40 is just, it is merciful.
We work in a broken system that sacrifices the quality of learning for appearance of education. We turn a natural, joyous, organic growth of mind and soul into an institutionalized routine. We talk about the disservice we provide to the students (which is so clearly evident — the problems not being in the high schools but the institutions preceding them) but more so, especially in recent times, we disservice the teachers and quality of teaching. When we have robotic authorities telling us everything is wrong all the time, what good can we see in ourselves, our teaching and our prospect to learn and grow with the students we teach. I can talk about the implications for educational reformation but the problems are inherently cultural and societal. It’s deeper than we can possibly fathom and this bandaid we keep on putting on and ripping off is merely creating a nicer scab to be picked at.
But i’m “okay” I’m looking at that second hand and praying: move faster.
(I promise I’m not as depressed as this entry may sound — the ramblings of a teacher with a lot of thoughts)