This is Why-The Real Of It by B. Ruth

“…I don’t have anything to say some days. If he has an amazing or otherwise profound day, I will gladly write in his book. I can see about doing Fridays. Like a weekly overview…” These were the words that came across my screen from an educator. One who has my very busy, (and I use that term loosely) 12 year old nephew in her Math class. He came home to tell me that she was conveying to him in so many words, that she no longer wanted to honor the agreement her, myself, the principal and another teacher came to at the beginning of the year for him. When the year started off rocky, we agreed to communicate with one another through his agenda book. In it should be his daily objective that he writes down; and a quick overview of his behavior from that day, that they write. It worked for a while and then I stopped requiring it as much because while I thought he was doing well, he was really just tearing out the pages of the bad reports. Once I figured that out, I began telling him if it is not signed daily, he receives a consequence. We recapped the expectations for him to take responsibility and the initiative to get it signed. And for a month, I haven’t gotten any terrible reports…he’s talkative, may laugh and play and cause a disruption; but knowing him…this is a huge improvement and upgrade for a 12 year old boy trying to find his place in this vast world, without a mom. Not an excuse for him. Just the very cold, and very hard reality.

“I can see about doing Friday’s…” that’s what I reread in the tone she may or may not have intended. And it went through me, to my core each time I read it. Being an educator myself, I like to believe that I go the extra mile for those who need it. I’m pretty sure, I model myself in education after my mom’s mothering. As a mother of four girls, she quickly learned that all girls are not created equal. Some need a little more coddling (Me!), while others need more rules and restrictions (that crazy, free-spirited youngest). I see that in each student that I have. They don’t all require the same amount of love, attention, or fussing. And an educator (should) try to meet them where they are and then bring them up. We teachers don’t like all of our kids, every day. It’s hard to admit and type that. But, I know it to be true. We’re human and that’s the way the world works. But, most of us…the good ones, are great pretenders! So good, that we can eventually fool ourselves.

She doesn’t like my nephew. As an educator and his parent, I know. Most days, I struggle with pushing through in love with him, myself.

“…I don’t have anything to say some days…” (So, do I really have to keep doing this every day?) Yes, I am paraphrasing the email. It may not be what she said exactly but, it’s what I read. And can a line like that really be taken out of context? I did not agree to her change of plans. My goals for my nephew have not changed. In or out of school. I will still choose to sludge through his mess and love him, and students like him, anyway. Yes, do it every day. Because he NEEDS it. Because it’s working for his success.

“I can see about doing Friday’s…” It was that line that brought back to my remembrance how one rotten apple can spoil the whole bunch, by way of the *cue scary music* STANDARDIZED TESTS.

Standardized testing has been around for years. Long before former president, George W. Bush, (the second one) introduced the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2002. This law was created to hold schools and educators accountable for how kids learn and achieve. How was this weighted? By giving a standardized test, statewide, once a year beginning in 3rd grade. A test, that Wikipedia defines as any test in which the same test is given in the same manner to all test takers, and graded in the same manner for everyone. With this law there was a universal rule and goal that all students be proficient in math and reading. This to be measured by these standardized test. Can you see why this was a problem? Because all children are not created equal. With this law, states had no flexibility in choosing the way they held their schools accountable. Demographics, cultures, accessibility to resources and many other factors were not considered. Every student across the state was held to the same standard. Sound unfair? It was.

Finally, some progress was attempted to right this wrong in 2015 when former president, Barrack Obama signed the, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law. One difference between ESSA and NCLB is that while schools are still held accountable for student achievement, this law provides a more flexible framework. With ESSA, each state can set its own goals for student achievement within that federal framework.

Baby steps.

All of this because there are educators out there who’s heart is not in it, who have gotten into education for the wrong reasons and who have become complacent in the classroom. Educators, some that are rotten apples, who need to be monitored to ensure that they are in fact, teaching.

I’ve been at this teaching and parenting thing for roughly 16 years. I never want to reach a point where I give up on either one of them and pass up the chance to help make a child better. One of my biggest fears is the fear of becoming complacent. While it can be used synonymously with the word, ‘content’. They are not the same.

--B. Ruth

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