Sometimes, rules are stupid.
Lately, it seems like the rules dominating public education in the United States are becoming more and more about adults (and less about kids).
As we move closer and closer to the time of the year when many students are subjected to days and days of testing, I'm becoming more and more angry. Every time I hear one of my colleagues tell me "it's their job" to teach to the test, I feel like screaming. (Insert Wilhelm scream here.)
However, being angry won't change anything. But... being passionately thoughtful can generate change.
If you're a reader of my blog, it's likely that you are a dedicated, caring educator who's interested in helping students get good at life. (As compared to simply getting good at the game of school.)
So, this goes out to you, my friends. Here are 5 of my favorite ways to engage in disobedience, by design.
1. Ask kids HARD questions instead of fact-based ones. If your kids get used to answering hard questions, then they won't need test prep. If the answer can be Googled, then it's not worth asking.
2. Only grade what really matters. Are you required to spend time on mind numbing computer-based practice or final exams written completely at the acquisition level? Then, let your kids know that these tasks won't prepare them for life. Attribute fewer points (or no points) to these assignments. And, hey, if you can get away with it, stop grading all together!
3. Get positive press when your kids do awesome things. If you're using class time to engage kids in real, adult work, then chances are you're making a huge difference for someone. Call the newspaper, blog about it, and share your efforts with the community. A classroom surrounded by really positive PR is usually granted a little extra leeway...
4. Find out where the hard line really lies. I've worked with many teachers who vehemently believe that they must adhere to curricular pacing guides with fervor. However, when I asked the central office staff about this, they replied that it's only a guide and teachers can adapt it to their students' needs. Sometimes institutional myths emerge. If you're not sure why you're doing something; just ask. The answer may surprise you.
5. Start every administrative request with the following phrase:
"I have this great idea to help my kids learn..." Just trust me on this one. It's really hard to refuse a teacher who's trying really hard to innovate and help kids. It works!