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Let teachers teach

Lois Kilby-Chesley, Vice President MEAby Lois Kilby-Chesley, Vice President MEA

As this new year begins we look into our classrooms with anticipation of what the next nine months will bring us. We have the chance to make real differences in the lives of our students, if we stand strong for public education and are not stymied by the alphabet soup of acronyms that have become a distasteful recipe of education.

Since the publication of "A Nation at Risk" (1983) we have seen a narrowing of curriculum, a tightening of accountability, and a plethora of ideas that have been proposed and discarded. My proposal is that we return to letting teachers teach our students in the ways we know work best.

I am not against change. I am against change that benefits a few to the detriment of many. How much money has been invested in programs and mandates that educators knew from the start didn’t support classrooms and wouldn’t improve student learning?

We have manipulated and discarded much of what was included in Maine’s Common Core, MAPS, MLR, LAS, MEAs, and Parameters of Essential Instruction. We now live with ESEA/NCLB (with allowable waivers), SBE, and Common Core State Standards that were signed into Maine law in April 2011.

Who benefits from reform if students don’t? A group of powerful, wealthy, non-educators who blame everything that is wrong with education on teachers and who are buying out public education. That monied elite includes Joel Klein (former chancellor of New York City schools and now VP of News Corporation), Michelle Rhee (former head of Washington, D.C. schools and now CEO of Students First), Wendy Kopp (Teach for America), Jon Schnur (New Leaders for New Schools), Eli Broad (Broad Foundation), and Bill Gates (Gates Foundation).

Who would I like to benefit from any transformation in Maine schools? The students. The educators. The parents.

I want to use all that I know about child development in my teaching. Lessons should be engaging. Assessments should be developmentally appropriate and directly applicable to the material students learn. Standardized testing allows me right now to click on the results and be shown exactly what a student needs to show growth on the next test. I want my children to grow as individuals with critical thinking skills not mimicry.

I want students to enjoy learning in a sane, thoughtful, and empathetic environment that fulfills their interests and passions. Today, I follow a math curriculum that has a calendar of units to which I must adhere daily. I want to follow my students’ lead in developing curriculum about Joshua Chamberlain at Little Round Top or service learning through the Heifer Foundation.

I want my students to go home excited about learning, ready to share a book that was recommended by a friend or a tidbit of information they learned in class. I want the parents to be excited about sending their children to our schools knowing every child will be treated as an individual and will be provided a great education by school staff who recognize the light within each child.

I want to make a difference in every student’s life in the next nine months through my actions in the classroom. I know you do, too. When we stand strong for public education and our students, we will empower teachers to teach and reform the perceptions about education and end the exploitation by our detractors.

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