Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Telling my Truth - School Board May 13, 2014

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of the Board.
 My name is Cheryl Binkley, and I have taught English for XXPS for 15 years.  I carry certifications in 6 different categories, including Special Education and Advanced Academics. I come to you tonight to tell you my story.

I am not an unusual teacher, not teacher of the year, not even teacher of the month or week.  You employ thousands like me.  

For a long time, I loved teaching. 

Each year was an adventure. Discovering each student’s needs and helping them go as far and as fast as they could was my passion.   It felt like we “went where no man had gone before.” We used all the tools at my disposal to create exciting and dynamic learning spaces. 

For many years students who had averaged 6 months reading progress per year  made 1 to 2 years reading progress in my classes, and those who had made 1 year in their past made 2-3 years progress based on the Gates-McGinitie reading test. Sharing ideas with colleagues and working together to target just what would help our students was a joy. 

Today I spend most days in high stress, feeling I cannot complete the tasks assigned to me. 

My students make an average of 1 year’s progress-- period, and we struggle sometimes to get that due to required test prep.  The reason is that my options have been narrowed by ever encroaching requirements on my time, and loss of curriculum options. Over the last 5-6 years intrusions into how and what we teach have become progressively invasive, eating away the time once spent on diagnostics, design, and planning.  Everything must be aligned to standards and high stakes tests. One cannot vere, even slightly, from the designated agenda.

Where once our documentation for evaluation took 2-3 hours every three years, now it takes closer to 10 to 15 hours per year every year, not counting evaluation meetings. The time we once spent aligning to our students’ needs, is now taken in meeting with school improvement teams who must align to state and federal expectations. The number of common assessments have gone from 2 per year to 4 or more. Where once we reported to parents monthly, now we are expected to report every 2 weeks.   Our individual planning time has been consumed by PLC/CLT meetings and assorted county required meetings. We are told that the county knows what best practice is, and  we must align to their expectations. 

Because of salary freezes, like six of the seven teachers on my hallway, I began to work a second job, as an adjunct at the community college, and staying up well into the night to meet my obligations for grading and data collection.  Hopefully, the proposed step raise next year will diminish the need for that.

I no longer can say I love teaching, not the way I am commanded to practice it today.

There is no way I can help my students soar or travel new galaxies while working under the excessive, demands on work and personal time; Demands that limit exploration for any innovative teaching.  Instead of a Starship captain, I feel like Picard in the Start Trek episodes as he fought the Borg, repeatedly told “Assimilate, Resistance is Futile.” 

I want to love teaching again.

Psychologists tell us that the way to break the human spirit is to trap a person in an inescapable double-bind, where no choice is a good one, where the penalty is to either violate their values and ethics or suffer intolerable consequences.  Teachers today are trapped in that perpetual double bind.  They can no longer love what they do; they are on the verge of being broken.  

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