Indirectly, my brother influenced my transition into teaching. Unbeknownst to me, stirring deep inside, the desire to help the downtrodden, as a teacher, started to take form with my brother’s passing. It took fifteen plus years before I could name it. And since that day in March 2009 when I was forced to put my life and career in perspective, it is all that I seek professionally and morally.
At the same time, as many have read in my posts, I struggle to harmonize my intense want to help underserved students overcome their self-doubts and improve in their mathematical proficiency with the incessant top-down focus on “closing the achievement gap” as the sole purpose for teaching.
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) gave the force of federal law to the belief that all students must be proficient in mathematics to amount to anything worthwhile. NCLB-driven efforts, and its progeny, have caused more harm than good to students’ self-esteem, creativity, and futures. While this may seem counterintuitive, life is much more complex than any legislative act or policy mandate.
As such, and to be true to my calling, I must emphasize helping students believe in themselves while providing opportunities for them to improve from where they are now over what the well-intentioned, but misguided “measurement driven” reformers believe. Improvement should come in whatever amount is possible for a given student at a pace that works for them. Students must be prepared for a lifetime of learning and not manipulated via myopic methods marginally linked to improving student achievement.