They’re not my kids anymore, but they’ll always be mine.
True, I don’t see them day in, day out like I did the year that they were in my classroom. But there are still snatches of time during the day where we can reconnect–a quick conversation as we pass each other in the hall, first thing in the morning when my classroom has more former students than current students.
In my mind, they’re just slightly taller versions of the child I saw every day for ten months, maybe with a few more teeth and a different hairstyle. But then I’m reminded that they’ve been thrown into a whole new existence.
The testing world.
I am making copies one day, a miraculous day when the copier actually works, when a small group of students arrives for a remedial reading lesson. Some are were my kids, others I know even though I hadn’t been their teacher. None of them look happy to be there. Just resigned. It is what it is, their faces seem to be saying. This is my life now.
I continue making copies as the lesson begins. The instructor introduces a book about going to the moon; I can see she is trying to do everything according to the “how to do a guided reading lesson” plan. There is an (alleged) hook and a (supposedly) engaging question, but no one bites. There is a vocabulary review while they sit in silence. Even I, who have built rockets and watched shuttles launch into space, am bored listening to this presentation. I think back to teaching planets and acting out the rotation of the Earth around the Sun and how dizzy we would make some poor kid who would pretend to be the Moon, and then I look at the situation before me. There is silence, there are bored expressions, there is no engagement with the person leading the lesson. This is just something they have to get through.
My copies done, I get to leave the room. But they are still reviewing the vocabulary. They haven’t even gotten to the reading of the text as I walk out the door.
It’s the end of another long and busy day of school. After dismissal I have a meeting that lasts over an hour, then I head to my room to quickly do a few things before heading out. As I’m preparing to leave, I notice a line of children just now leaving the building. Many of the kids are were mine.
Nothing meaningful, just more test prep. “The test” is just a few short weeks away, so these children are being subjected to extra hours of practice tests all in the name of a better test score. Most are also coming back to school on the weekend for tutoring. The administration says the students like it. Signs in the hallway say that it’s cool to come back on Saturdays.
These are not college students prepping for graduate school. These aren’t even high school students prepping for AP exams (which, now that I think about it, I had fewer after hours test prep for my AP US History exam than what my kids endure).
These are kids who can show their age with two hands and still have a finger or two left over.
I did something dangerous today.
Crazy enough that another teacher and I wondered if/when I would get in trouble. (I still might.)
My crime? I took my class out to recess after we got back from a field trip.
Anybody not immersed in the world of education is currently looking at me like I’m a crazy person, but you teachers know what I’m talking about.
I took my class outside. Not at the appointed time. Because it was–gasp!–good for my kids.
Time to run and play on the playground and let out some energy after the schedule disruption of a (fun, developmentally appropriate) field trip.
This is what it’s come to. Having recess not at recess time is akin to going rogue.
But I did it.
In a blink of an eye this group that I call “my kids” will not be mine anymore. They will grow a few more inches, graduate to chapter books, maybe gain a little brother or sister. Before I know it, they will be the ones in the testing world. They will spend extra hours at school and have bored, glazed expressions as they endure more test prep.
Maybe we can change that.
Their future is in our hands. And I desperately want to change it.