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)
4/2/2015 02:24:18 pm
Thank you. We did not have you in 8th, but know of your superb reputation and everyone's LOVE for you and your passion. My son loves history, took 2nd in Social Studies UIL and is in AP World History as a sophomore. Thank you, again.
4/2/2015 02:30:31 pm
I read this and cried. I looked at your website and wish I had you. Keep on fighting.
4/2/2015 02:31:02 pm
Coach Ketcham. I don't know you, but I've heard amazing things about your classroom. You speak for every single one of us. Thank you for writing what we all feel.
4/2/2015 02:33:01 pm
Amen! I'm calling my Congressman first thing tomorrow for HB 742.
4/2/2015 02:36:26 pm
Thank you! You are the voice of teachers. Even non-history teachers.
4/2/2015 02:41:08 pm
Someone please listen to him. Amazing story, from the heart.
4/2/2015 02:49:10 pm
Why don't more teachers stand up? Thank you!
4/2/2015 11:33:10 pm
I too had a history teacher that was amazing and made me want to learn history. It was coach Price (KISD) 7th grade Texas history. You and teachers like you make such a diff to those that didn't have an interest in history and open up our eyes to it in a unique way. I pray in a couple of years that maybe my son is blessed to have you because any child would be with your passion to teach them. Thank you coach Ketchum for all you do and the love you put into your craft!
4/3/2015 12:26:16 am
Pretty cool stuff, Brian. Thank you for being who you are and standing up for and fighting for what you believe to be the right path. I know Garey and Marcia are proud of you and I'm proud to know you. Whatever happens, I know that you will continue to make a difference in kids lives.
4/3/2015 12:50:18 am
I teach 8th grade English, and I hear you loud and clear! We are experiencing the same thing. My teaching partners and I can hardly wait until the end of the year so that we can finally teach our novel after the STAAR test. Every single thing we do up until that point is tied to STAAR. The test doesn't even really test their reading ability. I have been teaching 20 years. I am praying for the day to get here quickly so that I can retire. It can't come soon enough. BTW - I love my kids - this has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with them.
4/3/2015 01:29:15 am
I recently wrote something similar to my senator Larry Taylor the head of the Education Committee and is responsible for promoting all the things that are set to destroy Texas's public schools. I attended ATF Lobby day and spoke to 2 representatives and told them about what is going on in our day to day life and they were shocked. They had no idea but I did not leave their offices with any kind of hope that listening to the stories from myself and other teachers made any difference. They said they would look into it! I suspect is code for keep doing what the money people say to do.
4/3/2015 11:28:14 am
As a teacher, parent, and lover of education, this moved me to tears. What a heartfelt of a letter. I can only hope Texas listens.
4/3/2015 11:57:23 am
My mom showed me this letter You wrote to the Texas legislature, and I thought it was amazing. Don't give up on this Coach Ketcham. I personally would much rather love to learn about more history from you in the next two months than get ready for a test in the next two months. You're an amazing teacher and I'm glad I got you as my teacher this year.
4/7/2015 12:30:02 pm
Why do Texas teachers keep re-electing Republican legislators who have an agenda to drain money out of public education while raising testing standards to make public education look ineffective?
4/8/2015 10:13:55 pm
Very well said, my friend!
11/4/2015 09:37:44 am
thanks coach. i hate star test to:(
4/11/2016 10:11:55 pm
Very well said!! Post numbers we can call and email addresses we can hit up. I'll just copy this blog post and send to all in my power! You're one of a kind that needs to keep following and sharing your passion and love for history!!
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Author : Coach Ketcham
Teacher, Lover of U.S. History. None of my thoughts are deep, and spelling and grammar are rarely double checked.