Thursday, August 28, 2008

Teacher Reviews Mr. Fry and NCLB

Andea Mauk a teaching colleague of Jack Freiberger in LA, nails the kind of failures of NCLB that drive people out of teaching in her review of his one man play "They Call Me Mr. Fry." over at her blog (my review is here and not nearly as effective politically and educationally.) Jack has some videos on his site.

Here are some excerpts from Andrea's review:

A former colleague of mine, Jack Freiberger, put on a one man show in Culver City yesterday. Even though I taught Saturday school, I rushed off to see the show with my mom, and we didn't even make it on time. Yet, we went in, and as we did, I was floored. There was my story, so many teachers' stories coming to life on the stage. It was so moving, so fantastically presented. Jack played many characters, but none more poignantly than Anthony, a "problem" student that came from a hard-knock background.

He dealt with the No Child Left Behind Act that has brought misery to so many classrooms across America in such a humorous but telling way. He shared the fact that he was written up for playing King Arthur, using a pink clown's ballon tied as a sword because LAUSD has a zero tolerance weapons policy. He subsequently got called to the principal's office because he was teaching math at the wrong minute of the day.

Yet, this is the reality that I face everyday. I was hired by the former principal because I was creative, and I could bring a plethora of talents to the classroom. Yet, due to our school's lack of progress at meeting our No Child Left Behind progress goals, my talent is no longer needed in the classroom. Instead, what is desired is a robot teacher who can follow the daily schedule to the exact minute, execute the lesson plan without grasping the teachable moments because the teachable moments that pop up are not part of the objective of the lesson, and unless the lesson is delivered in an extremely precise manner, the students "will not learn." I feel as if I am being asked to change my very essence.

So, as of yesterday, between my conversation with our current principal and watching the life of an NCLB teacher played out on stage, I came to realize that what made me a "good" teacher is exactly what the powers that be don't want to see in the classroom.

My mom has a habit of watching CNN endlessly, which to me is depressing, but she tells me almost daily that it is the teachers that are getting blamed for the woes of our educational system. I am not saying the teachers are blameless. However, not one teacher at my school knows exactly what "they" are looking for. In order to be an effective teacher, you are supposed to set clear expectations. Yet, the teachers have no idea exactly what is expected of them. They only hear what they have done wrong.

The fear has been so craftily instilled that I find myself working on various planning sheets that we are expected to have, and doing work for the "well planned lesson" until the moment it is time for me to go to bed. For teachers, bedtime comes early. As Jack said in the play, "Even my alarm clock is pissed off that it has to wake up at 5:30 every morning."

My house is a mess because there's only time to put toward the job, there are papers everywhere from lessons that need to be planned and projects and this and that. It's not a life. It's out of control. I saw it on stage yesterday, a mirror of my life, so touching and yet so ridiculous.

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