An Homage (and Apology) to Teachers (aka “I Want My Classroom Back”)

June 2, 2010

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of facilitating our Yoga Skills for Youth Facilitator’s Training at Project Butterfly in Los Angeles. We had a full circle of powerful teachers willing to spend yet another 20 hours learning new techniques, gaining perspectives and deepening understanding of how to integrate yoga into schools and other venues for youth. As always, I am impacted by the level of dedication teachers give to their craft.

All too often, teachers bear the burden for what’s wrong with our education system. Now more than ever with the No Child Left Behind Act, teachers are held accountable to the success or failure of students, at a seemingly higher level than anyone else involved in the great big mess that our education system has become. Should teachers be held responsible for what occurs in their classrooms? Oh yes, without a doubt. However, public schooling has gotten to a point where teachers are told exactly what they must do and then they are punished when those plans don’t work.

In other words, we no longer ask teachers to bring their brilliance and creativity to the classroom. We don’t ask teachers to light the sparks within their students. All that we ask is that teachers prepare their students to pass a standardized test. It’s simply not enough. Today, a teacher’s time is filled with paperwork and technical, logistical tasks, rather than creating curricula alive with possibility and learning. This weekend, I was reminded of how fortunate we are as yoga teachers because we are considered “enrichment specialists” and are able to function in a slightly less controlled area of education. As yoga educators, we enjoy the privilege of caring for the well being of our students on all levels, not just academic. Educators know that learning is never just academic. Real learning happens when a child’s needs are met on social, emotional and physical levels.

How did we reach this place where teachers are expected to be technicians of information rather than inspiring guides to greater depths of understanding? How is it acceptable to society that we, by and large, compensate teachers so poorly when they carry such a critical load for us? What is necessary to uplifting the field of teaching and empowering teachers to take back their classrooms?

I do not know the answers to these questions, but feel a strong need for public dialogue and debate surrounding these issues. With all of the wars, oil spills, and political mayhem, it is easy to sweep this issue under the rug and allow a select few to determine to trajectory of education. However, perhaps our global problems are actually intricately linked with the quality of education we provide our citizens. Are we developing critical thinkers and problem solvers or do we simply ask students to report back to us what we have given them?

To all of the teachers who manage to keep the fire alive and educate with fervor and passion, thank you, you are the lights of our world. There are many schools and teachers who refuse to give in to the low standards being set by many policy makers. There are certainly schools and teachers that make it work. And how many more could make it really work if we lifted the heavy, oppressive iron of one-size-fits-all cookie-cutter curricula and asked teachers to enact democracy in the classroom, to give everyone a voice and to allow students, parents and communities to participate more fully in the education process? That would require a great deal of trust. Perhaps we can shift some of the  trust we’ve placed in wall street, oil companies and government officials toward our dedicated teachers who stick with the job no matter what and give selflessly to our children everyday.

What do you think?


4 Responses to “An Homage (and Apology) to Teachers (aka “I Want My Classroom Back”)”

  1. So well said, Abby! I couldn’t agree more. The good news is that there are adminstrators and teachers out there (many of them!) who are making an effort to hand carve out the means to educate the whole child – cookie cutters tossed aside to some extent. As you say, they deserve our utmost gratitude for being willing to take risks, try new things and think outside the current box in which are education system resides. Times are changing and as more teachers and parents stand up to address our children’s needs (all of them, not just those that can be measured on standardized tests), the box will expand. It already is.
    Thanks for another great article – will post on our facebook page as well.

  2. Aruna Says:

    The education system needs and deserves a bailout. Wall street is given so much money with no questions asked or accountability – its shocking! Meanwhile teachers buy supplies out of their own pockets.

  3. Christy Says:

    So much of what you shared with us resonates within me. In working youth and their families, I’m always heart broken to hear how the schools have eliminated so much of the arts that feed the spirit and souls of all of us. So much of what we do now must be “evidence based” suggesting that the data gathered is actually reporting evidence.

    Creative Solving Problem Tests are better indicators of success rather than SAT or IQ tests for individuals. This suggests that gathering knowledge and being able to regurgitate memorized, learned material doesn’t guarantee success as it appears to be suggested on how teachers are being influenced to teach in their classroom. When children are able to express themselves in art, writing, song, music or movement, they are better able to feed a part of them that isn’t easily reported in “evidence based” outcomes. However, the right brain is stimulated and there is evidence to those that are in relationship with children who are able to integrate both the left and right brain.

    Play and movement are forms of learning that still belong in the classroom. I can still remember walking into the first day of my elementary school days with wide eyed wonder of what would be up on the bulletin boards to invite me into what we would be learning. I can remember listening to music in the classroom when we did our seat work. Art was integrated in all lessons. I can still see the Aztec Sun Dial my 6th grade class worked on for weeks and the divine joy we all breathed in when we hung it up and shared with all the other grades. That was a history lesson thru art.

    I don’t really have an answer to what is evolving in our schools for our teachers, but I wonder who can gather more outcomes of Creative Problem Solving Tests to use along side the other more accepted tests that seem to have a strong hold on how teachers are being driven to teach. Teachers have such a HUGE influence on children on so many levels, not just on the ABC’s of the curriculum.

    I hope I didn’t get too off base here, I know that I continue to find my way to support the teachers the children I work with and sometimes it is a joyous experience and other times it’s stifling. However, the one thing I find in common in both experiences is the dedication and desire of the teacher to be helping and guiding their students.

  4. bazaargirl Says:

    Keep up the great work! What you are doing is amazing!

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