Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What is and what should be

Susie in Mrs. L's 2nd grade class. She reads at a level G. She can recognize numbers to 100 and can add and subtract single digit numbers. She has a behavior chart on her desk and gets a sticker if she stays on task for 15 minutes. She is in the RTI process.


Susie is a 7 year old little girl in Mrs. L's 2nd grade class. Her birthday is next week and she can't wait. She says she is getting a puppy because her Aunt Betty's dog had puppies and her mom said she can have one. Susie's mom and dad divorced when she was 3 and her dad and his girlfriend just had a baby boy.  Susie's mom works second shift at a factory so Susie goes to day care after school. Mom wakes her and her 9 year old sister up from the baby sitter and she goes back to sleep at home until it is time to get up for school in the morning. I could go on and on.

This Susie is made up to illustrate what school is and what it should be. Susie is more than the numbers on a Dibels, a score on a test, or a reading level. She is a living, breathing person with hopes and thoughts and feelings. Being 7 doesn't negate that fact. Being little doesn't negate that. Being in school doesn't negate that fact.

When I was in High School, I had my future professions narrowed down to teacher, librarian, or child psychologist. I knew for sure I wanted to work with kids, I just wasn't sure in what capacity. I chose teaching, but I realized after working with kids in a camp setting, that working with kids in a recreational environment is what I wanted.

In working with the y, I was able to listen to their hopes and fears. I was able to laugh hysterically, be goofy with them, and dry their tears. I was able to take the time to really listen to them and acknowledge their personhood.

When I first started working as an instructional assistant, I brought those skills with me and they were appreciated. I was able to take the time to calm a crying, angry, upset child and set them on the road to better choices while the teacher taught the rest of the class. Now ten years later, those teachers that respected me and treated me as an equal and a valuable member of the team, have been replaced by teachers new to the profession who earned their degrees in an era of data, extreme accountability, and endless reforms.

Today I am treated as someone who is there to serve the teacher -- an assembly line widget turner. Last year I was told I should do as I was told and shut up about it. Today I was told I needed to "refrain from side conversations because the kids need to get back to the group as quickly as possible."

I understand teachers have a lot of pressure to produce numbers for the higher ups to plug into spread sheets to submit to the politicians.  I also understand there needs to be some accountability. However, everyone can agree behavior incidents are rising. Schools are spending money to "pay" kids to behave. Our district has chosen PBIS. We have spent nearly a thousand dollars on incentives this year and today was only day 10.

I wonder if we remembered these are small people -- many with big issues -- and took the time to acknowledge they are more than the numbers entered into the computer, if the behaviors would decrease? In the end would they prefer we remembered they were getting that puppy for their birthday and asked how training it was going, or would they rather have the sticker for sitting criss, cross, apple sauce by the time we count to ten?

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