You look like you haven't slept in a while. Your hair's a mess and your clothes are all wrinkled. We know you are overworked and tired. But it seems like it's more than that...
Are you feeling bad because Jenny cried in class today?
You've worked so hard to be a teacher. And everyone was so proud of you. Your family supported you especially during busy times like the first day of school. Remember when the first day of school was so exciting? You got to meet your new class. And secretly, it made you proud when parents requested you as a teacher. You were known as one of the "good teachers" and everybody loved you.
But now, we noticed in those first-day-of-school pictures that the excitement is gone from your eyes. Do you greet your students on the first day of school wondering which one of them will be the first to crack? One will, you know. Someone will inevitably break down. And you'll have to stare at your computer screen pretending not to hear your student crying.
When did this happen? When did teaching become testing? And testing become torturing?
In 2013, the US DOE published a paper called Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century. It outlines the new psychometric testing. Children are tested on much more than knowledge now, they are subjected to testing that pushes them to the brink just to see how much they can take before they breakdown. Even children as young as preschool are tested on delayed gratification to gauge long they will wait before unwrapping a shiny new toy.
It seemed crazy at the time to read a USDOE white paper asking the question: "What will it take to shift educational priorities to promote not only content knowledge, but also grit, tenacity, and perseverance?" But now, you see it happening in your classroom. It is all playing out right before your very eyes. You are living what the paper demands: "—it is the responsibility of the educational community to design learning environments that promote these factors so that students are prepared to meet 21st-century challenges."
The changes in your classroom come from a long line of psychological research including the United States Army Master Resilience Trainer (MRT) Course. That program is listed in the USDOE paper as a method to develop resilience in children. Classrooms are now academic boot camps and you are no longer a teacher. You are the drill sergeant. It's your job to break Jenny down, make her cry so you can rebuild her into a 21st century student equipped with grit, tenacity, and perseverance.
This must break your heart... Is it hard to face Jenny's mom on parent night, knowing you ignored her crying child? Or worse....knowing you caused those tears? You have been placed into an impossible situation. And each year, it gets harder to accept those sweet little teacher appreciation gifts because each year, you feel less and less like a teacher.
"There are potential risks and costs to grit. It may not always be productive to persevere in the face of challenge. For example, persevering to accomplish goals that are extrinsically motivated, unimportant to the student, or in some way inappropriate for the student can potentially induce stress, anxiety, and distraction, and have detrimental impacts on a student’s long-term retention, conceptual learning, or psychological well-being. Careful research is still necessary to help educators learn how to protect students and to gauge and fine-tune practices and interventions."
So, here's what we are going to do....
Momma Bears will be urging all parents, grandparents, and everyone who cares about children not to proctor the TCAP test. Many of us will be pulling our children out of school during testing time and we would appreciate your support for our decision. For those Momma Bears wanting more information about opting out of TCAPs, click here.
And teacher, if you start to feel sick when testing your students, then by all means, go home. Go see a doctor. We're worried that the stress of going from teacher to drill sergeant is affecting your health. It makes us sick too so we will be unavailable to substitute. ---Love, Your Momma Bears