Let me start out my saying this. I love teaching. I have known since I was in 8th grade when my U.S. History teacher made an impact in my life that I wanted to be a teacher. I adore teaching history, and I love my kids. I want to be the teacher who makes the world a better and more understanding place, but law makers are making this harder and harder for me to do. Does anyone else think it is crazy that more people in the state of Texas would trust me to carry a gun in my classroom than trust that I would actually teach my class without a STAAR standardized test to make sure I am covering my TEKS?
With our current system, lawmakers are making mistakes that are setting back education every day. Our best and brightest teachers are leaving to teach non-tested subjects, or leaving the profession all together. The ability to dive deep into content, expand on the people and events in history, and make those connections are lost in the search of standardized test scores. It’s hard for people, who truly love the content and their kids (even those very unique age of 8th grade kids) to teach when lawmakers continue to handcuff them.
I graduated college, taking with me love of History and a History degree from a college known for its superb history department. I read about history, take advanced training on history, explore historic buildings, take over 100 kids to Washington D.C. every year, and give historical tours in my free time because I love my subject so much. With that said, my performance comes down, not to whether my students have a knowledge and love of History when they leave my classroom, but what their scores are and what mine are. They are like a scarlet letter posted on my chest. My amazing fellow 8th grade history teachers and I last year had the HIGHEST STAAR scores of any school in a 5 district area around us. While one may think this would be a cause for celebration, it brought no joy, and just the expectation to continue cutting our lessons for more and more STAAR prep and sadness over the content we already cut.
I invite you, I ask you, and I beg you to stop by any day you want and observe my class. In nine years of teaching, I can promise you we have never had “free time”. I don’t take days off. We work from bell to bell and we have fun. We learn. History is fun if you do it right, and the people I work with do it right. If you stop by any of our classes you will find active, fun and engaging lesson going on every day. We dress up, use technology, and God forbid, share our love for history.
My students need me. They need me to teach them, be there for them, and care when often no one else does. My students need my time so I can foster this love of history in each and every one of them. Give me that time back!
Millions of dollars goes into testing every year. Imagine the impact if we took that and brought in experts, traveled to museums, and used hands on activities to help my students experience history. Imagine if we took some of those millions and used that to hire more teachers with passion. Imagine if my kids had a 20:1 ratio, rather than 30:1 that we have now. Imagine a world, where we could really have time to take a day to reteach something that the kids didn’t understand. Imagine, if we took the time to let students make mistakes, and learn from them. Just like the people they study, they could learn to pick themselves up when they fall, rather than be pulled across the finish line by an arbitrary test deadline that falls in the middle of April, and costs us over a month of instruction time.
I’ve talked to other state congressman and women and state school board members that say they don’t want to remove the test because it will make history a blow off class. Hardly. People don’t teach history because it is easy, they teach it because they have a passion for it and they see the real value in it.
I need you, and my students need you. You are on notice. That great teacher I had in 8th grade no longer teaches 8th grade. Your test convinced him to move to another grade. I know he still works just as hard without a test. I’m tired of your test. It just makes me sad that you have beat me up. I hope you and your colleagues will not play political games, be swayed by the testing lobby’s money, but will advocate for students and teachers. Let me teach History. I won’t let you beat me. You will not beat me. Pencils down.
8th Grade History Teacher (for now)
Author : Coach Ketcham
Teacher, Lover of U.S. History. None of my thoughts are deep, and spelling and grammar are rarely double checked.