Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Master

"No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and Money."  Matthew 6:24-25  I have never felt connected to this verse.  I didn't understand the frustration that comes from trying to serve two masters until now.  
I was so fresh out of college that I might as well have worn my graduation gown to the interview. I didn't know much.  In fact, I didn't know anything about the programs the district used to implement the Texas objectives.  But in a crowded room and sensing that my name was about to be scratched off the list, I made eye contact with the principal and said:  "You will never regret hiring me.  Thank you for the opportunity to interview for a position."  Three days later, I became a first grade teacher.  I knew from the very beginning what I wanted to accomplish.  I wanted a classroom full of readers and students, who when they left my classroom, never stopped wanting to learn.  
A lot has happened since then.  Benchmarks and tests were important 18 years ago, but now they have become a master. They believe each child is a number and that number better grow.  They want readers who can annotate a text and provide evidence to support their answer.  They want students to defend absolutes.  They don't ask if the child willingly picks up a book to read.  They don't ask if the child has a favorite author.  They don't ask to see the math problems a number-loving child writes in his math journal.  They don't ask how a child feels about coming to school.  Those things can't be quantified.  
As teachers, we constantly question how to please the master.  We wrestle with the costs the master requires and if we can pay the price.  Last year, I drove myself crazy trying to please that master.  I felt defeated and empty at the end of the year.  I took the summer to reflect and contemplate other career choices. But I decided to return to the classroom that has been my home for the last 15 years.  I told myself that I would honor the master, but I would see my students for who they were - the little girl celebrating her birthday, the boy who tells me he goes without lunch on the weekends, the students who clap when I finish reading a book to them.  I would not turn them into numbers on a spreadsheet. The last two weeks I have been giving benchmarks, grading them, and entering scores into a spreadsheet.  The master tells me that many of my students have failed so, therefore, I too have failed. 
I refuse to believe it.  My room is full of readers and students, who I hope and pray, will always love to learn.