Ms. Rief worries that a new generation of teachers has been raised on standardized testing and thinks that is the norm. Ms. Rief fears that public schools where teachers are trusted to make learning fun are on the way out. Ms. Rief understands that packaged curriculums and standardized assessments offer schools an economy of scale that she and her kind cannot compete with.
I’ve been a huge admirer of 8th grade New Hampshire English teacher Linda Reif forever. In her books and articles and talks she describes wonderful creative and thoughtful teaching. But I’ve always admired her most of all for staying in the classroom — teaching 8th grade English steadily all these years. So many others of her caliber have left — going for professional development, writing, higher ed, and so forth. Linda, is one of the few (Nancy Atwell is another who comes to mine) who has stayed in the classroom and her writing makes it clear that she loves it. As someone who has also stayed in the classroom she is my guiding light for this and I just hope she keeps going even with the latest trials she is facing. Trials described in this New York Times article, “In a Standardized Era, a Creative School is Forced to Be More So which caused Peggy Orenstein’s rightly sad response, “What We Learn (or Don’t) From Test Scores“. The articles made me glad because featuring Linda will help readers hopefully see what this awful legislation is doing. Sad because what she said above is something I’ve been noticing and thinking for a while.
This has been going on so long that I’m now working with young teachers who were taught themselves under these testing situations and learned to teach under them as well. With all the attention paid to standards and tests it is really hard for a young teacher, even in a school like mine, to feel he or she is on the right path. I can help (as I’m sure Linda and others of our generation do too), but eventually we won’t be there and then what?
Like Peggy Orenstein I’m a public school kid and only ended up a private school teacher because I began teaching when there were no public school teaching jobs. Now I feel incredibly lucky to be able to teach creatively in this time of tests and standards and so forth and so on. A couple of years ago at NCTE I sat in on a conversation that Linda was having with a group of middle school teachers and it was incredibly disturbing. As in the article, these teachers were attempting to continue to teach creatively in an environment where it was harder and harder to do so.
Kudos to Linda and all the teachers who are still managing somehow to teach creatively in this time of extraordinary limitations for educators.