Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Stop Secrecy

Yesterday at our weekly half hour delay meeting, we had our annual "test taking procedures and protocols" presentation. Many of you probably have something similar. And even though we don't take the tests til Spring, and will have another training closer to the test, we still have to sit through the presentation, read a bunch of stuff, and sign that we have done so. As I was sitting there it was emphasized more than in the past that we are not to discuss the test. 
Not only can we not discuss the test, teachers will need to tell kids not to discuss the test with anyone -- not even parents. And a letter will go home asking parents not to ask their kids about the test. 

Schools are on a "need to know basis." "That's confidential." is the education motto. We can't know if a child is identified, or what their home life is, or what their behavior history is. We are not supposed to mention a child by name or discuss a situation with which we are having difficulty except with those in authority who have a need to know. 

Profiling is forbidden because it segregates people negatively. If someone commits a crime we shouldn't describe them by height, weight, sex, or ethnicity. 

Dramatically speaking, is it ever OK to tell a child to not tell their parent something? The Christmas ornament is going to be a surprise not a secret. The mother's day hand print is a surprise... not a secret. 

If I know a child is identified, then I know there may be other techniques I can use to help him or her to understanding. If I know a child used to live in a car, or that dad is in jail, or grandma has custody, it gives me an understanding of where the behavior stems and I can use that information to gain understanding and coach them through the emotion. 

If you are telling someone how to get to your house they need to know what roads to take, land marks along the way, and oh, yeah, whether your house is one or two stories, if it has a driveway, and maybe the color of the house and what the yard looks like. Shouldn't the same be true when describing people?

We are not all the same. We should not strive to all be the same. It seems to me all the secrecy has created less safety. It has created more shame than pride. It has created more tension than togetherness. 

We have special needs in our building. Of course I can't tell you what kind, but I can tell you how beautifully the Kindergartners adapt. After the first week or two Bob was just Bob and not "Bob who blahablahblah." It is we adults ( and the lawyers who are always ready, willing, and able to sue) who muck things up in order to prove we are above labels. 

But kindergartners are tested on their ability to sort things into categories. Friends for them tend to fall into two categories -- "those who are nice to me and those who are mean". Period. 

Knowledge is power and as educators I would hope we could use our powers for good. I can't be the only one who thinks we, not only as educators, but as human beings, need to advocate for what is best for children. A child who is blahblahblah and prone to blahblahblah needs blahblah in order to be his or her best self. Secrecy leads to needless struggle for Bob and a school career constantly disrupted for notBobs. 

Seeking information in order to understand is not gossip. It is not "labeling". It is not harmful. 

Let's embrace our uniqueness and teach others to do so as well.

 If you don't like women in their late 40's
 who have brown eyes and brown hair that they like to wear long so they can pull it up 
and are of German, English, and Native American heritage 
and who love to read and discuss book, 
are not great cooks but an OK bakers
who like to research genealogy
who have a thought to be an education activist when the youngest graduates
who married their high school sweet heart
who's said husband is of German and Polish heritage
who has two boys who are wicked smart and nerdy 
who chose to be a breast feeding, cloth diaper using, no pacifier using, stay at home mom 
who has a college degree from Purdue
who is to heavy for her 5'3" frame

then you don't have to be my friend or even like me. 

But I will wave and say hi if I see you. And if we get a chance to talk I may find out that 80's rock is your favorite music too. 

"And I said - well that's -- one thing we've got"
   (I realize this is from a '90's song) ;-)

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