Wednesday, August 4, 2010

NCLB and teacher stress. Huh?

Empty classroom...with or without students
when the teachers are out to lunch (Wiki Commons)

In the middle of writing a proposal for a book of humorous travel stories, I remembered a comment on my Facebook page this morning. It was by a friend of a friend. The friend had mentioned how stressed out he was, and he had hoped that the cooler weather of October might bring relief.

I replied that it would bring relief only if there was a sudden reversal of the misfortune the two deadly presidencies of George W. Bush had brought upon the United States, and, for that matter, the world.

A friend of his noted that she thought I was probably stressed because I was paying attention to matters over which I have no control, i.e., the political situation in the US or anywhere, I suppose. She was avoiding stress by keeping her circle of concern, as she put it, much closer to her circle of influence.

I replied that since I am a journalist, my circle of concern had better be a bit wider than the local grocer and the Curves franchise. And I would hope my circle of influence would be wider than that, as well.

Then I checked her Facebook profile; apparently, she teaches at a college. It would seem to me that her circle of concern, unless she is teaching how to teach kindergarten (and even then), should be extremely wide. Any teacher's circle of influence is wide, and, for good ones, the wider, the better.

That being the case, how can a teacher justify ducking her head in the sand to avoid stress? How can one teach anything unless one is intimately involved in the world around one, the whole world around one? Or were some teachers relieved by the imposition in US public schools of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), because they wouldn’t have to teach any longer but simply help the two-armed parrots memorize a very few facts? College teachers get the dumbed-down kids after they’ve spent their entire school career, at this point, under NCLB. I can’t imagine that today’s products of Bush’s schools are in any way challenging, so teachers wouldn’t get much stress there. They wouldn’t be waving their hands in the air, having caught Dr. Smith (or whoever) in a mistake.

Or is it stressful trying to teach products of NCLB anything? Are they even barely literate? And I don’t mean in terms of abecedarianism; I mean even about their culture as a whole.

I'm willing to posit that, and give that teacher the benefit of the doubt; after all, I've no more walked a mile in her shoes than she has in mine.

Any intelligent person cannot avoid stress in the current universe. The cynic in me says that George W. Bush probably owned stock in pharmaceutical companies and thought that if he created sufficient opportunities for stress across the board (two useless wars, gutting virtually all “green” legislation on the books, revoking habeas corpus, raising lying beyond high art to religion), people would clamor for Xanax and he’d get rich.

Still, except for a brief respite to recharge now and again, I should think a teacher would understand that engaging with the world is possibly the first duty of a teacher. Especially now. Without that, any information transmitted, whether about quantum physics or knitting, is done in a vacuum.

I can hear the huge sucking noise of a billion vacuums being opened, and eager students spilling out, hungry to learn about their world.

Yes, it's only a dream.