Classroom No. 1
I walked through the door of the classroom to collect my group of reading students. The six nine-year-olds were scattered around the room, busily working in pairs and groups and by themselves. As they noticed me, the whining and complaining began. Oh no! You’re here? Do we have to come? We don’t want to come! We have work to do!
Yup. You gotta come, I answer. It’s time for your reading group. And so six protesting children follow me down the stairs and into the reading room where for the next 50 minutes I proceed to coax, cajole, entice, and push them to follow the lesson plan laid out in the scripted, research-based, reading intervention program.
These students are at-risk, and this is one of the few approved programs I can use to remediate them. The teacher’s manual for this program tells me exactly what to say, do, and teach, for an entire year’s worth of remedial reading instruction. Whether I like it or not, whether the students like it or not, it is what I am supposed to do; it is both the question and the answer that will arise in meeting after meeting about challenged children: Which research-based reading intervention program are you using? If in fact I have been doing something else in my teaching time with that child, then I cannot “prove” that they have gotten real reading intervention.
Classroom No. 2
Ten students file quietly into my room, and find seats on the sofa, in the rocking chairs, or on the floor in the heaps of cushions.
“You are here,” I tell them, “Because you have been chosen to succeed. Of all the students in all of third grade, Mrs. Q and I picked you to come to this group because we know that, with a little help, you can pass the big test coming up in March.”
I talk to my students about the test: about how many days and hours long it will be, and why passing it is important to them now, and why all the other big standardized tests will be important to them in the years of school to come.
“I know you can pass this test,” I tell them. “And I’m here to help you do just that. I am going to tell you the secrets of success. And as you learn them, you can use them for anything you want to do in school and in the rest of your life.”
The classroom is utterly still. The students gaze at me, huge-eyed. They are ready to believe; they are ready to succeed. I reach over to the bulletin board behind my chair. A banner across it reads, “You have been chosen to succeed!” Beneath the banner, a sign reads: Secret # 1. The details of the secret are covered up
“Are you ready for the first secret?” I ask my class.
I am Two Teachers
Both of these teachers are me, and both examples are recent. Sometimes I do what I am told to do/forced to do/mandated to do. And other times, I do what I want to do/believe in/know is right.
Ironically, my students are always the left-behinds, the new speakers of English, the impoverished, the “slow” learners. Demographically, these two classes could be the same class, although in reality they aren’t.
As I walk the shining halls of my modern school building, I think about truth, and standing firm in what I know to be true. And what I know is, it is not my students who are broken and need to be fixed.