“It’s like a gang” : A Teacher Speaks out on Uncommon Schools

I had this conversation with a friend who taught at an Uncommon School for a year and “graduated” from Relay.

Here’s some of what she said.

I don’t tell people I went to Relay because it’s embarrassing. It’s just brainwashing. Which is why I’m applying to real grad school next year. I can’t remember anything I learned there. 

It’s like a gang. You’re initiated in and its hard to get out. Uncommon is like a prison. The Kindergarten orientation is an indoctrination, with no warmth, it’s all mechanical. It’s like you’re breaking them, the way you’d break a horse. 

And if you’re there long enough you get rewarded for being hardcore mechanical and having little robots who speak a certain way, walk a certain way. And I hated the color system (Students get assigned a color based on their behavior each day) seeing kids crying at the end of the day because of their color. You can’t reduce a kid to a color.

I was very disturbed when I started there. I was very depressed for the year I worked there.  I always thought I could be one of these kids. So it didn’t sit well with me. 

I don’t want New York to become New Orleans. There are no public schools in New Orleans. 

 

Personalized Education is a Scam

Personalized education is code for students sitting in front of computers programmed according to their level in math, reading etc. This kind of “education” is great for tech companies, but research shows it is not so great for kids.

My experience proves the same: all my “high achieving students” spend their weekends at museums, parks and zoos, in art classes or building structures at home. All the kids that spend their time on a DS, computer or staring at the tv are the ones with delayed language development, non-existent problem solving skills and poor self control. My main goal every day is to level the playing field with lots of messy, hands on, interactive learning experiences and an emphasis on interpersonal skills.

Learning is a social process and relationships between students and teachers are the basis for all real learning.  Children learn by doing- with their bodies, their senses, their voices and with each other. This is not my opinion, it is proven by decades of research.

Computers are fine and can be a useful tool for skill building, research and  creating student materials. Pencils are also useful for learning, but no one is saying that they can fix everything missing in education.  There should be computers in classrooms, but they can never replace teachers and can never replace the social, active and sensory experiences that constitute real learning.

I’m glad I have a computer in my classroom, but if I had to choose I’d take scissors, glue, and construction paper any day.

http://dianeravitch.net/2015/12/12/leonie-haimson-did-mark-zuckerberg-make-another-mistake/

ESSA and Teacher Training: Disturbing Indeed

It makes no sense that in the midst of a national obsession with teacher quality and “accountability” the new ESSA law makes it easier to become a teacher.

From the Washington Post: ” Provisions in the legislation for the establishment of teacher preparation academies are written to primarily support non-traditional, non-university programs such as those funded by venture philanthropists.”

Apparently, accountability and teacher quality are only important when you want to bust up the teacher’s union and fire all those lazy tenured types. But when it comes to who we certify in the first place, we revert to the idea that anyone can be a teacher as long as we hand them the right script. However, any real educator knows that teaching is an art and it takes years of reflection and experience to refine your practice.  If we actually cared about students succeeding, we would make sure only qualified teachers made it in to classrooms.

I know people who “graduated” from TFA , Relay and Teacher U, some of the non-profit charter indoctrination camps that pass for teacher training these days. Every single one said that their “training” was useless. Some refer to it as brainwashing. And guess what, many of those people are not teaching any more.

If reformers actually cared about teacher quality and all students succeeding they would mandate that every teacher get a masters degree from an accredited institution with a balance of theory and practice, including at least a year of student teaching or other experience in the field.

Imagine if the government decided that doctors don’t have to go to 4 years of medical school anymore to practice.  Instead a bunch of venture capitalists can put them through unregulated, non-university programs for 6 months and then send them out to heal the masses. People would be outraged, as we should be. Moreover, white upper class people would make sure they were treated by the real doctors.

The white privileged elites in private schools and in demand public schools will always have qualified teachers from Bank Street, or Harvard or Teacher’s college. It is and will continue to be the low income students of color who are being taught by unqualified, brainwashed 23 year olds who will inevitably leave the profession after a few years.

Every student will not succeed until as a nation we learn to respect teachers as professionals, not technicians. Qualified and empowered teachers make for qualified and empowered students. Until we realize that, no amount of legislation will undo the damage done by Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/11/23/gates-foundation-put-millions-of-dollars-into-new-education-focus-teacher-preparation/