I witnessed the death of teaching today.
At an in-service (a meeting where the administration pulls us out of the classroom to improve instruction), we were told that in order to comply with No Child Left Behind we, as a citywide department, will be using curriculum mapping to guide instruction. For those of you not fully versed in educationese, that means that what we do for every single day of a school year will be mapped out in advance.
If a student is taking Algebra I, which was the topic du jour, he or she will be able to walk from one classroom to the next, knowing exactly what to expect to see taught that day, throughout the entirety of our school corporation. It won't matter that some of us have the most advanced students in our school taking Algebra I in eighth grade, or that at the same time, high school teachers who are teaching the same course are dealing with those who barely passed regular eighth grade math the year before. The methods, examples, activities, and strategies will all be predetermined by a task force that was organized last year. I, as an instructor, will be a human automaton, not only following this curriculum to the letter, but reporting on my compliance each day using an online template where I will check off each item that I use in class each day.
This is my worst professional fear realized. My ability to make up imaginitive activities or worksheets is no longer welcome. My choice to take advantage of teachable moments, where a topic involving mathematics comes up in the news and I can spend time talking about it with my classes, is gone. My skill at analyzing student weaknesses is no longer required; it won't matter whether my class needs an additional day to comprehend a concept. I guess I don't have to worry if my kids struggle with the dreaded train problems for three days as I had to deal with last week; after one day it will be time to move on to the next topic whether they understand it or not. The task force clearly knows best what my students will have trouble with from year to year and how long it will take.
Guest speakers and field experiences are things of the past. So is the thought of interdisciplinary units, crossing curricula with science, language arts, or social studies. Want to co-teach the metric system with the science teacher in your team? Sorry, no time. We're doing the order of operations today and evaluating expressions tomorrow. Is your beloved family member in the hospital for four days? You'd better leave detailed substitute plans. Not that it should be a problem to have a substitute. With this cookie cutter operation, anyone could do this job. The question is, who's going to want to?