Save Our Schools: Assessment and Corporate Culture

I was incredibly moved by Matt Damon’s speech to “Save our Schools” at a conference in Washington D.C. First he was introduced by his mother a professor of education and advocate for decreased testing in public schools. I applauded her decision to remove her children from the ever scrutinizing impact of standardized testing. As a former public school teacher I remember the days “oh too well” when I was told to incorporate endless hours of test prep in an effort to raise our test scores, target students who were identified as having the most impact on test scores and deny students who were in the greatest need for intervention because they were too far behind. Yes I did these things not because I wanted to but because I was told to. I did it because I wanted to do something I loved to do and that was teach. I did it because I knew that once the testing was over and the administration had retreated I could give my students what they truly needed, someone who believed in them, and would teach them how to transcend poverty and the disbelief they encounter in their daily lives. And now I find myself teaching teachers, and trying to give them hope, empowerment and confidence as they enter the field. I want to advocate for them because I know they will have the most impact. They too will leave behind a legacy of lives they touched and changed. I wish I could tell them that test scores don’t matter, they will not be judged by their students performance but by their students growth, effort and motivation to come to school and do their best every day. I want to remind them that their childhood may not be like yours. So take account of when they snap, snarl or treat you poorly, chances are someone has been doing that to them for too long. Remember to always take care of yourself because you won’t be any good to anyone if you are sleep deprived, overworked and bitter. And believe in every child you have the opportunity to teach no matter what their former teacher says, or the number they received on their last standardized test, just believe that you can make a difference. Smile whenever you can, play music and dance life is too short and we are too powerful to be silenced by corporate greed and the assessment culture!