Sunday, December 23, 2012

Teacher dropouts

Editor's note: This is a living post to which I will continue adding the stories of teacher dropouts as they are brought to my attention.

More than 20 years ago John Taylor Gatto wrote a letter announcing his departure from the teaching profession, titled I Quit, I Think. The letter was published in the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal where he said he no longer wished to "hurt kids to make a living." He gave this advice:
"We don’t need a national curriculum or national testing either. Both initiatives arise from ignorance of how people learn or deliberate indifference to it. I can’t teach this way any longer."
Fast forward 20 years and we have Kris Nielsen's letter published in the Washington Post in an article called, "Letter from disgusted teacher: I quit." From Nielsen we find that nothing much has changed since Gatto did the same thing in 1991.  He explained that he quit because:
 “I refuse to be led by a top-down hierarchy that is completely detached from the classrooms for which it is supposed to be responsible,” and “I will not spend another day under the expectations that I prepare every student for the increasing numbers of meaningless tests,” 
Nielsen's not alone.  Just last week a teacher self-described as female, black and southern shared her story on her Tony Giving Lip Tumbler site in this story:
I am an American Teacher. I Love My Profession. So, I Quit.

She explained that she was no longer able to fulfill her role of institutionalizing children which required her to be the person who was made to do the following:
To corral them. To oppress them. To rob them of true educational experiences. To attempt to standardize them. To test them. To test them. To benchmark them. To rank them. To drill them. To worksheet them. To blow whistles at them to move. To ring bells for them to stand. To watch them like a hawk as they visited the restroom. The PE coach once remarked that I “looked like their CO” (correctional officer) as my students walked in line and I watched them to be sure they did so with the absolute perfection mandated by my boss, the school founder, who, although they were of age, did not enroll his own children, who were eligible because they, too, lived in Orleans Parish, in the school which he founded. He said that it wouldn’t be fair to them to have them attend the school of their father’s creation. He said they would be the only white children. And the principal’s kids. He sent them to the only public school in the parish where the rest of the white children attended. It was best for them to learn there without all of the things at his school which he imposed on Black children: non-descript uniforms, trailers, inexperienced and unqualified teachers, longer school days by way of three additional hours, and adults all around them who were as battered, abused, and depressed as they were.
It seems this public quitting thing is catching on.  

The teacher below read his letter and uploaded it to YouTube creating a video that already has had hundreds of thousands of views. 

He complains of the same issues that causes those before him to quit. He points out that socialization and learning from the world are no longer a part of the school experience,  recess is nearly extinct, and of course the over-emphasis standards and prepping everyone for the one-size-fits-all test even though we know learning should be customized.  

In this video Ellie Rubenstein tells us why she has had enough. Rubenstein explains the reasons that have led to her decision to quit and addresses several major problems she says she has faced as a teacher in our current education environment.
"I was proud to say I was a teacher," Rubenstein tells the camera, after describing how she abandoned a career in public relations to "do something meaningful" with her life. "But over the past 15 years, I've experienced the depressing, gradual downfall and misdirection of communication that has slowly eaten away at my love of teaching." 
"Raising students' test scores on standardized tests is now the only goal, and in order to achieve it the creativity, flexibility and spontaneity that create authentic learning environments have been eliminated. ... Everything I love about teaching is extinct," she continues.

Ron Maggiano, a social studies teacher at West Springfield High School in Fairfax County won the Disney Teacher Award for innovation and creativity and he also won the American Historical Association’s Beveridge Family Teaching Prize for outstanding K-12 teaching. But, now, as shared in the Washington Post,  he is resigning, because he’s had enough of the high-stakes testing obsession that he believes has undermined public education

The teacher in the following video brings the painful testing process to life as he shares the day in the life of a ranked and sorted young child of immigrants. Through his story we see not only this child set up for failure, but a system designed to label those that teach these students failures too because if their students don't succeed, they risk losing their jobs, and schools risk being shut down.

But here's the sad truth that Gatto started investigating after he quit 20 years ago. As the principal boss in the "Tony Giving Lip" blog alluded to, and Gatto explains in the video below, there are two school systems.  

There is one for the masses and this system is doing exactly what it was designed to do. Rank and sort compliant workers who have been indoctrinated to conform to life in the corporate cubical.

The other is for the powerful and/or rich who do not send their children to these common public schools. As Gatto told us, those making the decisions for other people's children, send their children to schools that provide an uncommon experience covering 14 themes that are purposefully absent from government run schools

The jobs these teacher dropouts are yearning for exists outside government schools. Unfortunately, as long as our society tolerates government control of schools, our teachers will be forced to follow orders resulting in the deliberate dumbing down of the masses and a departure of good teachers frustrated by their inability to provide all children with the education currently reserved for the elite.