It had been quite a six months for our son.
His paternal grandfather had died twelve days before his ninth birthday in December; his maternal grandfather was hospitalized with misdiagnosed strokes in January; his father was diagnosed in February with congenital heart valve problems requiring valve replacement surgery (fewer than two decades after the first open heart surgery had been performed for that procedure), and, in April, on opening day Little League season, he himself had been attacked in the park by a father who mistook him for another child who had been harassing his son.
To say that our family was feeling stressed does not begin to describe our emotional state.
In another post, perhaps, I’ll share about the park incident, but in this post, suffice it to say that his classroom teacher, as well as his principal, corroborated that he had never had any contact at school with the child whose father attacked him.
Grateful for their support following the ongoing trauma, physical and emotional, that our son suffered, our continued need for his teacher’s support accelerated as his father’s surgery date approached.
Because his father and his teacher had known each other from shared volunteer community service projects, we were confident that she would continue being empathetic toward our son, as expressed to his father and me in a face-to-face conversation days before the surgery.
Enter testing–not my husband’s medical testing, but our son’s achievement testing.
Seems as if days after his father’s surgery, while I was juggling hospital visits and court hearings over the park attack, his teacher banished him to a lone desk in the hallway.
Reason? According to a classmate, later corroborated by other classmates, the teacher told him she did not want to see his face.
Why? The teacher (repeatedly) explained to our son in front of the class that he was not doing well on his math work. End of the year achievement tests were approaching, and since she had been awarded teacher of the year the preceding year, she was afraid that if he did not do well, the state would “take back her award.” (You can’t make this up!)
Frighteningly, we never even would have known, except that one upset student told his mother who immediately told me.
That incident preceded my own teaching incident relayed in the previous post. The incident I experienced as a teacher helped me to understand, in retrospect, as a parent, though certainly not to condone, how student testing has a deleterious effect on teacher empathy–explaining, but not justifying, how the teacher could have been so seemingly inconsiderate and cruel.
If you think high-stakes testing is potentially deleterious just for teachers’ careers, think again. It’s dangerous for children’s well-being! ..I know. I’ve lived it—from being on both sides of the desk.
Rather than high-stakes testing determining whether a teacher is effective, why not trust the natural teaching-learning process? Principals know. Teachers know. Parents know. Students know.
In human terms, the most effective teachers may/not be the award winners, but like physicians, they do no harm—and, hopefully, even do considerable good!
Have you ever been unjustly hurt in a work situation by a supervisor or colleague, who was paradoxically lauded for excellence? How did the real or perceived injustice make you feel? In what way(s) were you hurt?