You may have noticed my absence recently. Despite my best intentions, blogging has been put at the end of my to-do list. I’m back in school until mid-July, and my only relief comes with summer break and its decreased responsibilities.
In the state of California, all teachers must have their CLAD certification. CLAD stands for Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development, i.e., English as a Second Language. Since I have to renew my certificate this year, I had to take the classes.
Let me say first that I support continued learning around how to best educate students whose native language is not English. Regardless of any politics, the fact is that these students ARE in our classrooms and in our country. If we do not educate them well, we WILL pay for it one way or the other. The kids are here because their parents are here, and therefore are blameless in whatever politics people want to invoke.
My issue with being back in school is, well, school. I hated school as a student. I got good grades because my parents expected it, but school was primarily a place that felt more like jail than a place where I was educated. I was never a willing hoop-jumper, and now that I have been out of school for some time, returning to that feels like returning to a prison cell. I feel powerless, dependent upon someone else to tell me my value with a grade. There’s no flexibility, no differentiation, and very little actual learning happening. I am so busy double checking APA form and trying to figure out exactly what the instructor wants to hear in my papers that there’s no time to think and go deep in my learning. In my first class, I generally had two papers a week to write that ranged from ten to thirty pages. I received A’s on all of them (in fact, I receive 100% in that class), but I cannot tell you what those papers were about just three weeks past the end of the course. Not only that, but what I’m mostly learning is that aside from some specific language development activities easily found online (and the use of bilingual education, which is completely out of teachers’ control), teaching English learners is essentially just good teaching: hands on, differentiated, scaffolded, collaborative, and constructivist in nature.
With my single class at a time, I am spending more time working on school than I did with a full course load as an undergrad. Guess what’s suffering beyond this blog? If you guessed my work at my job with kids, then you’re correct. It’s ironic that I am taking classes to improve instruction for students while simultaneously having to cut back what I do with the actual kids in my classroom. I am on spring break this week, and while I still need to grade the amazing research papers my students turned in, I still don’t have time. I have six articles, two textbook chapters, online participation, and a collaborative paper to write this week. This is even more than the graduate courses in writing I’ve taken!
I don’t mind working hard, and continuing to learn is both enjoyable and necessary (and a part of my everyday life as a teacher) in order to be good at what I do. What I object to is the rigid nature of school, of what we perceive as real learning when actually, a lot of the time, it’s just proficient hoop jumping.
I’m going to leave you with a link to a video by a college student who recently dropped out because of the hoops. There are definitely holes in his argument, but his general sentiment of wanting the way we do school is dead on. However, I want to continue teaching, so I’ll suck it up, learn what I can along the way, and jump through these hoops.