By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – My post here last week was one of random thoughts and musings and that’s what I have for you again this week, if you’ll indulge me.

On Blogging:  It’s been a few years now that Pete asked me to join his crew and contribute to this space and in all that time I don’t think I’d need two hands to count the comments my posts have received.  Is anyone out there?  Is anyone reading this?  I often try to bring you news from my part of the country, Louisiana, and goodness knows we have a raucous political climate down here, but my posts have become less and less about politics.  This has been true on my own blog as well.  There is a lot about my state that needs to be fixed but there is a lot to love also.  I’ve been trying to share that lately and I’ve written a lot about education lately because that’s my field.  Do you guys read any of this?  I’m just wondering.

On Reading:  What are you reading?  I’ve always been a reader and am always in a book, but since starting this Classroom Library Project I have been reading some of the books people have donated to our library.  I just finished 1 Dead in Attic by Chris Rose which originally was a series of columns in the Times-Picayune following Hurricane Katrina.  It’s a haunting book and it took me right back to those terrible days after the storm.  Here in Shreveport, of course, we didn’t get the storm but we got plenty of fallout.  Our schools and communities, like so many across the country, took in refugees from the storm; my husband was still in law enforcement at the time and was part of two different excursions to the area following both Katrina and Rita to help out.   Chris Rose’s book is beautifully written and is accompanied by heartbreaking photos.  Check it out.

On Aretha Franklin:  Speaking of NOLA, the Times-Picayune has video of a Second Line through Treme following the announcement of the passing of Aretha Franklin.  Louisiana loved Aretha who was a staple at NOLA’s Jazzfest.

On the Times-Picayune:  And speaking of the Times-Picayune, The Hayride has a post about the decline of that iconic newspaper and its attempt to stay relevant in a challenging news acquisition environment.  I hate to see that paper go down because there is so much great history associated with it and there were so many really great writers that came out of that proving ground: William Faulkner, Hamilton Basso, Lyle Saxon, to name a few.  The 1920s were the true glory days there and if you’re at all interested in that you should pick up Dixie Bohemia: A French Quarter Circle in the 1920s by John Shelton Reed.

On Louisiana:  And finally, it’s almost fall in Louisiana which means festival season!  This past weekend was the Shrimp Festival in Delcambre.  In September we have The Sugar Cane festival in New Iberia to look forward to and the Highland Jazz and Blues Festival in Shreveport and the Red River Revel.  In Louisiana we have festivals for almost everything, including crawfish, mayhaws, seafood, corn, peaches, zydeco, meatpies, tamales, gumbo, andouille, pigs, cracklins, Christmas, and of course poke salad.  I’m not kidding.  Here’s a list.  Any excuse for a party.

Have a good work week, folks, and say something every now and then so I know you are there!

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia.  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I’m headed back to my second week of school this week and let me tell you, it has taken me all weekend to recover from week one!  Not that anything went wrong, but it does take all of one’s energy to lay down a good foundation for the semester in that first week.

Just some quick bits and updates this week:

The Classroom Library Project:  as most of you are aware, I started a Classroom Library in my tenth grade ELA room this year with the belief that kids will read when they have choice.   Additionally, the Louisiana version of Common Core stripped all novels from our curriculum and we read a whole lot of non-fiction speeches and articles.  So, I’m trying to restore balance.  At the end of day one, ten students had checked out books.  It was glorious.  By the end of day three, my entire fourth block spent the last twenty minutes of class Friday reading from their books.  Everyone had a book of their own choice and was reading.  I’m very optimistic about what we can accomplish this year!  I spent the entire day Saturday setting up Reader’s Notebooks to give to my students this week.  Thanks to everyone who sent us books and remember, the Wish List is continuously updating!

Currently Reading:  A friend recommended The Sun Does Rise by Anthony Ray Hinton.  I downloaded it on my Kindle (during an especially dull in-service last week) and have not been able to put it down.  Anthony Ray Hinton did thirty years on Alabama’s death row for a crime he did not commit.  He is a thoroughly engaging writer and I am saving the last sixty pages of this book for later today when I can read straight through.

Confederate Monuments:  A couple of articles have popped up on my radar about Confederate monuments this week: this AP article and then the New York Times has a piece as well.  Removal of the monuments in NOLA hasn’t seemed to have restored peace and unity there or solved the city’s other issues as far as I can tell.  The battle over the Confederate monument in Shreveport is still ongoing and the Daughters of the Confederacy is still raising money to save their monument and plead their case.  One takeaway from the NYT piece is that not all these reminders of the Civil War can be removed, which begs the point, to me, why even try to erase or sanitize history?  Let’s just educate.

What People are Talking About:  Prison reform.  Here in Louisiana we are hearing lots of discussion about Governor John Bel Edwards reform package that has released thousands of inmates in an attempt to lower incarceration rates.  The Edwards camp says it has been a success but not everyone, including U.S. Senator John Kennedy, agrees.  At least two have been re-arrested and charged with murder.  The plan might have looked good on paper and may be saving the state money, but the problem seems to be that the education and training programs were not all in place when the doors to the prisons opened.  It will be interesting to watch the recidivism numbers over the next months.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.

By:  Pat Austin

My classroom

SHREVEPORT – My summer is over.  It’s back to school for me tomorrow to begin year twenty-four.  Or is it twenty-three?  I can’t remember.

I want to take a moment today to thank the readers of this blog for their donations to my new classroom library; so many of you hit that Amazon Wish List and sent a book to us, or reached out to me for an address so you could send your own gently used books.  I am so grateful for all of that, really.

On my own blog I posted some photos of my classroom and thanked readers of my blog for their donations, and if you’re interested, you can check that out.  I want everyone who sent a book to see where it ended up.  Not all of the books are loaded on the shelves in these pictures, but most are.  You might notice that the non-fiction shelf is pretty empty and I’ve purchased about thirty books on my own to help fill in some of that, and I’ve updated my Wish List with some non-fiction.

I have two more shelves we can grow into, so I’m still collecting!

It’s no secret how I feel about the new Louisiana curriculum and specifically scripted lessons with pre-canned slides which are mandatory.  I hate them.  They are soul crushing for both students and teachers and they strip all creativity and fun from learning.  I do my dead level best to get around it and to give my students what they need and I pray every day that I don’t get in trouble for deviating from the endless stream of speeches and dry articles we are required to put in front of kids, along with highlighters of multiple colors for the many annotation exercises.

Louisiana may be recognizing the fault in this overreaching Guidebook curriculum, however.  I may be assuming too much, but Louisiana was recently given permission to try out a new series of tests that are more relevant to what students are learning in the classroom as opposed to the standardized multiple choice tests we have now:

Louisiana is applying to build a LEAP 7 format, covering both ELA and social studies, that measures student understanding of pre-identified knowledge and texts from their daily classroom experiences, rather than the usual random assortment of texts. The format is intended to make assessments more relevant and connected to the classroom, while still providing valid and transparent data on student growth. External partners will evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot.

These new tests will help measure background knowledge, which I know from experience many of my students need some help with.  Students in poor schools from economically challenged backgrounds with parents who don’t have books in the home or don’t read to them have a large gap in background knowledge as compared to more affluent students.  That’s one reason why this classroom library project has been so important to me.

This statement from the Louisiana Department of Education seems to recognize that more work is needed on the current curriculum (emphasis mine):

 Though improved dramatically in the past three years, the Louisiana Assessment of Education Progress (LEAP) continues to measure the ELA standards, including specific skills such as summarizing passages and locating main ideas, but it does not go above that to measure whether students have developed a base of knowledge. Consequently, in many schools a focus on discrete reading skills predominates the English classroom, with minimal attention paid to knowledge. Building assessments in a new way—bringing ELA and social studies standards, curriculum, and assessments into full alignment— would make the academic systems more meaningful. and reinforce the same vision for student learning.

It seems to me, what this statement says, is that we are spending a lot of time identifying main ideas with kids in dry texts and annotating with little effort to make use of that information.  We are teaching skills, but not knowledge.

Amen, brother.

That’s what rebels like me have been saying from day one.

That’s why I want my students reading books.  Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, all of it.

Anyway, we will see what comes of all that curriculum business as it rolls on out, but in the meantime, what I really wanted to do here was to thank you good people who sent books for caring about kids and for caring about literacy.  You warm my heart!

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.  She is the author of Cane River Bohemia due out in October from LSU Press.  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Not much surprises me anymore but I have to admit, I’m surprised that this, via The Hayride, is a thing now:

At an annual American Library Association conference in New Orleans, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) officially introduced “Drag Queen Story Hour” to librarians across the country.

According to an ALSC post on its website, libraries across the country could now be hosting men dressed as women in scary costumes with horns, while reading to young children. The feature image is of Xochi Mochi who read at the Long Beach public library dressed as a demon with five horns and a white painted face. Last year drag queens read to school children at public libraries in New York City and throughout California, wearing wigs and makeup.

Of course, after a photo of Xochi Mochi went viral on Facebook Left-wing propaganda site Snopes argued that it was impossible to know if he was dressed like a demon since demons only have 2, not 5 horns. Apparently Snopes would know this. Forget about a man dressed like a woman and a devil-horned demon reading to children– that shouldn’t concern anyone, just the number of horns.

Here is a clip from the post referenced above from the American Library Association site:

 Interested in bringing Drag Queen Storytime to your library? ALSC Committee Members received tips for optimizing success from library pioneers who have already done it.  We also had the chance to meet a Drag Queen who talked about the value of offering this program, including fostering empathy, tolerance, creativity, imagination and fun.  Drag Queen Story Hour is a non-profit and you can find out more at its homepage.

You’ll have to click over to The Hayride to see the photo of the five-horned, white-faced drag queen.

This practice actually started last year in libraries in New York and in California and has been endorsed as a signal of acceptance of diversity by the left.

I am not implying judgment at all but I do think there are some dangers here.  I don’t think drag queens are just popping into libraries to ambush kids; programs like this would be announced or promoted as such and if you don’t want your five year old being read to by a Satanic five horned goddess, don’t send him to drag queen story hour.

I do question the motivation, however.  What is the gain by LGBT groups?  Aren’t these readers setting themselves up to be seen as “other,” as “different?”  Is it for attention?  Manipulation? Indoctrination? Or just to show five year olds that drag queens are people too?

I guess I have a lot of questions about this.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia.  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Is former New Orleans governor Mitch Landrieu going to run for president?  A Landrieu candidacy has been getting a lot of attention of late and if I were a betting person, I’d say he is going to run.

Landrieu is, of course, being coy about it which is to be expected at this early date.

CNN speculates that Landrieu is hoping Joe Biden will run against President Trump in 2020:

When Mitch Landrieu discusses his ideal opponent for President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, he acknowledges it sounds like he’s describing Joe Biden.

“I would like somebody that could restore America’s stature in the world on day one,” the Democratic former New Orleans mayor said in a televised edition of “The Axe Files,” airing Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on CNN.

“I would like somebody that knows exactly what they’re doing, because they’ve done that before, that can stabilize and just rebalance the country for four years,” he told CNN’s David Axelrod, who countered that it sounded like Landrieu was describing the former vice president.

“I think I am. Honestly,” Landrieu said. “If I had to pick today, I would — and he could take over tomorrow, and — you know, life would be a lot better for everybody.”

Recent poll results reported at The Hill have Biden leading the pack for the Democrats with Hillary coming in second and Bernie Sanders after her.  Some things never change.

Landrieu would be a dark horse candidate.  His main claim to fame, besides his family name, is his removal of the Confederate monuments in New Orleans on the advice of jazz musician Wynton Marsalis.

This created months of protests and problems in New Orleans and while Landrieu was myopically focused on the statues issue, NOLA crime spiraled out of control and complaints were raised about the crumbling infrastructure.

Earlier this month, Politico published a puff piece on Landrieu that is difficult to get through for those of us who disagreed with Landrieu’s portrayal of Americans as barbarians whenever he spoke about the monuments.  The author of the piece, Edward-Isaac Dovere, fawns over what he calls Landrieu’s “Obama-like intellectualism” and praises Landrieu’s intellect and control.

If Landrieu does indeed run in 2020, the monuments issue will certainly be an issue as it most directly ties into our national history; the issue of racism will also be center stage as that is the reason Landrieu cites for their removal.

There are many issues about a Landrieu presidency that would have to be carefully considered.  What position would his sister play in a Landrieu presidency, if any?  How much influence would she bring to her brother’s term?

It’s too early (for me) to speculate too heavily on 2020, but many are already playing the game and Landrieu knows that.  He’s getting out there and with his new book and book tour underway, he has a nice platform to do that.

Perhaps it’s not too early to start doing our research after all.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia.  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.

Book donations!

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As I was thinking about what to share with you this week I gave some deep thought to trashing John Bel Edwards and his tax-raising, money-grabbing administration of our state, and I also thought about listing the myriad reasons why Mitch Landrieu would be a terrible president of our country should he actually run (I think he will run, for the record), but instead I’ve decided to be more positive today and write about philanthropy and the generosity people have in their hearts.

I do a lot of writing on my own blog and in other places about my classroom and my students; it is no secret to anyone that I stand in strong opposition to Common Core which has stripped my sophomore English classroom of novels and implemented a 75% non-fiction reading curriculum.  I firmly believe that my students need to read novels, short stories, poetry, and plays.  They need to be able to get lost in the pages of a novel, to lose track of their world for a bit and vicariously experience the lives of Scout Finch, Daisy Buchanan, Harry Potter,  Ramona Quimby, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Meggie from Inkheart, or even Boy21.

In the spring of this year I polled my students about their reading habits and was dismayed to find that almost none of them had read a book for pleasure since elementary school.  They were very candid about their reading and their feelings about it.  Giving me some small hope, I also learned that many of them enjoyed reading in the past but as they advanced through school and they were channeled into more unpleasant reading chores, they turned against it.  I figured then that maybe I could reignite a love of reading in my students, despite the Common Core mandate that fiction is passé.

So to that end I began my campaign to build a classroom library.  I wrote about it (and my students’ responses) on this blog in May.  My goal was to accumulate 500 high-interest books, YA and classics, by the time school starts on August 6.

I’ve spend the summer painting bookshelves in my classroom and collecting books.  I’ve begged for books on this blog and my own and I’ve combed local thrift stores every week since May.  I now have nearly two hundred books for my library!  It’s not my goal of 500, but it’s not August 6, either.  I’m still going!

The kindness of strangers has overwhelmed me – literally.  I established an Amazon Wish List and people I don’t even know have sent books, many with the most supportive and kind notes included!   I’ve received both new and gently used books from the Wish List and people have boxed up books that would be of interest to teenagers from their own homes and sent to me.  It’s amazing!

As each book comes in, I cover the paperbacks with clear ConTact paper to protect them, log them into a database, and put a book pocket and checkout card in the back.  Book jackets for hardbacks are laminated.  I want these to last a long time.  The books that I’ve never read, I read.  I want to be able to “sell” these books to my kids so I have had to do a lot of catching up on YA fiction.  I’ve read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller who is the goddess of classroom libraries and Readicide by Kelly Gallagher.

Book donations are still trickling in and I hope that as school starts they will pick up again and I can reach my goal of 500 books.  I have a project on Donors Choose that I hope gets funded and I’ve written a couple of grants that I hope come through.

My point here is one of optimism.  I believe people are really good and really want to help when they see a need.  I’ve seen such generosity and philanthropy through this project that it really lifts my heart.  I spent much of last year angry about not being able to share fiction and reading with my students.  They are in tenth grade and naturally have little interest in an unvaried diet of Supreme Court decisions, presidential speeches, and scientific articles which comprise 75% of our curriculum.

This year, I’m excited about returning to my classroom and introducing them to new worlds!  An of course research shows that readers score better on tests which will make my administration happy.  I care less about tests than creating lifelong readers, but it is a necessary evil, and my students do get a sense of pride when they score well.

At any rate, I have about three more weeks of summer and more thrift shops to hit to reach my goal.  My Wish List is here if you’d like to send us a book.  But most of all, remember, people are really good and even though we see a lot of anger and negativity in the world these days, sometimes we need to look past that and find something positive to hold on to!

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation (Oct/’18). Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.

The Blue Whale, Catoosa, OK

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I am guilty of sitting around in my insulated world and not tapping into the wanderlust that is deep in my soul.  I am perfectly content to sit at home under the branches of my magnolia tree and read books.  Thankfully, my husband is more proactive and so every so often we get in the car and actually go someplace.

It is seldom anywhere romantic or exotic like Europe; usually it is to the Midwest to see his family in Iowa.  We have just returned from a two thousand mile trip through six states and while it wasn’t Paris, it was just what I needed.

I love getting out and meeting people on the road, hearing their stories, and tapping back into the heart of America.  I spend far too much time on the wrong side of the computer screen.

We drove Route 66 through Oklahoma and, armed with my maps and research, we explored The Mother Road and its roadside attractions.  We located original alignments and near Sapulpa, Oklahoma even found a patch where the asphalt had worn away right down to the original Portland concrete.

Sometimes it’s the little things!

We met a couple there who were doing the same thing; they had done half of Route 66 last year and were back this year to finish it up.  “We thought we could do it in two weeks,” he explained, “but each time we stop and talk to people or look at something, well, two hours have gone by!”

Near Catoosa, Oklahoma where The Blue Whale is, we met a man on a motorcycle who was taking the Mother Road east to west on his bike with his daughter; she learned how to ride just to do the trip with him.

In Baxter Springs, Kansas, where the Rainbow Bridge is, we found the friendliest people of the entire trip.  We talked to a man over breakfast who was originally from Louisiana so we had a lot in common.

This is what is so restorative about our little summer trips to the Midwest: we meet the nicest people, hear the coolest stories, and see the neatest things.  It’s not Paris, it’s not London, it’s America.  Real America, real people, and the roots of who we all are.  The trip restored my faith in us as a country and as a people.  To read the news, we are all angry about something or injured in some way by a monument or a bias.

This isn’t really true.  We are a land of proud people who love their communities and who have the capacity to reach out and be human.  We show kindness and can welcome strangers into our cities and towns.  We take time to talk to each other and find common bonds.  We share stories and meals and we always can appreciate the simple joys and the beauty around us.

Get outside this summer, y’all!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport. She is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation.  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I abhor censorship, especially when it comes to books and things like banned books lists and instances where people who deem themselves more forward thinking than all the rest of us in their decisions to “protect” us from offensive material.

You will have no doubt heard by now about the decision to strip Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a prestigious book award title:

A division of the American Library Association has voted to remove the name of Laura Ingalls Wilder from a major children’s book award, over concerns about how the author portrayed African Americans and Native Americans.

The board of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) made the unanimous decision to change the name on Saturday, at a meeting in New Orleans. The name of the prize was changed from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.

The association said Wilder “includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values”.

The first award was given to Wilder in 1954. The ALSC said Wilder’s work continued to be published and read but her “legacy is complex” and “not universally embraced.”

So this is my question:  why must something be “universally embraced” for it to be acceptable?

As a child I read every one of the Little House on the Prairie books; I loved them.  They transported me to that frontier era and taught me a lot about how those early settlers survived.  I was fascinated by them.

I never read the books as a child and thought, “Well, my goodness, that’s an awfully racist way to depict Indians.”

The Association for Library Service to Children has the right to make decisions about their own award, certainly.  What concerns me, and always has when it comes to things like this, is where does it stop?  Are we now to go back and revise every piece of literature that mentions Indian violence on the frontier?

What else in our American literary canon might offend someone?  The list could be pretty extensive.

This is so closely related to those people who want to ban To Kill a Mockingbird or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from reading lists and libraries because they contain language we no longer use today.

Somebody cue Guy Montag…he can handle this.

 

 

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.  She is the author of Cane River Bohemia (Oct. ’18).  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Louisiana is facing a $650 million dollar fiscal cliff and two previous special legislative sessions have failed to solve the dilemma, and so special session number three begins today, at a cost of about $60,000 per day.

Throughout this crisis the normal groups have been targeted and threatened for extinction: higher education and health care.  In May, 30,000 Medicaid recipients were threatened with eviction from nursing homes as their benefits were threatened.  The popular TOPS scholarship program has been targeted for deep cuts which has filled parents and students with anxiety. The latest threat is that the food stamp program for the entire state will be cancelled in January unless legislators find a solution to this budget shortfall.

In simplest terms, state democrats want to raise revenue through additional taxes while state republicans want to cut funding.  It’s a bit more complex than that, obviously, but that’s the crux of the issue:

Just hours after the second special session of the year ended, the Louisiana House Republican Caucus, which has positioned itself as the largest opponent to Edwards’ agenda, vowed it “will not waver” in the third.

“Since the first day of this legislative session and throughout the special session, the Louisiana House Republican Delegation has been crystal clear in its opposition to growing the size of government,” the caucus said in its statement. “We will enter into the upcoming special session laser-focused on reducing state spending and meeting the critical needs of the state. Our commitment to the taxpayers will not waver.”

Governor John Bel Edwards (D) wants to raise revenue through extending an expiring tax:

Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to give a short session-opening address about 5 p.m., urging lawmakers to agree to extend one-half of an expiring 1 percent state sales tax. House Republican leaders have been steadfastly opposed to the half-cent proposal and continue to push for a smaller fraction.

And so while both sides are steadfast in their positions, it seems, and unwilling to come to any compromise, we are spending around $650,000 million for each special session.

Makes perfect sense to me.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia (Oct. ’18).  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – In my post last week I attempted to take you inside the Common Core classroom, to pull back the curtain and show the complete and utter loss of autonomy and creativity teachers have experienced under this program to the point that teachers are not even allowed to use their own words; we work from scripts, prepared slides, and prepared teacher notes.

From my post last week:

In this way, theory goes, every child across the district gets the same lesson on the same day in the same way.  There are no “rock star” teachers who have an unfair advantage over less capable teachers.  The playing field is leveled, and this helps measure how effective these lessons are in meeting the criteria for standardized testing.

There are many problems with this approach to teaching, only one of which is that every student is taught in the exact same way.  All that training we received on diversified learning styles was apparently hogwash.

Another problem is that some teachers are afraid to speak out for fear of recriminations, so we don’t really know how bad this really is.  Some of us just close our door and teach the way we know students learn.  We use our own words and our own activities developed with specific student needs in mind.  Then when the test scores come back, and they are wonderful, it looks like Common Core is working.

Let’s restate that: teachers are silently rebelling against this boring drivel and teaching as they were trained, and they can’t speak out for fear of getting in trouble.

Other teachers are just leaving the profession.  The nationwide teacher shortage is epic.

Consider this teacher from Georgia; explaining why she left the classroom she writes:

You start talking to teachers, trying to figure out where their fire for education has gone – why they appear as robots, or automatons, simply going through the motions. What has happened? You dig deeper and learn of prescribed and scripted curriculum; teachers are expected to be at the same point in the same lesson every day. For transient students that idea seems based in reason, but the practice has been detrimental to teachers.

You learn of the pressure felt by both teachers and students to perform well on standardized tests. You learn of the autonomy stolen from teachers to make any decision beyond a seating chart in their room. You learn of the complete lack of empowerment (and active process of disempowerment) of the teachers and then learn this is a widespread issue. Teachers across the country are begging for a shift away from this robotic sort of teaching.

Some are leaving the field. I did, and, while I ultimately found myself working toward my doctorate, I knew the k-12 space was no longer an option as I refuse to leave my brain on the sidelines and act as a robot. Feeling disempowered was a nonnegotiable for me and for many educators.

It’s all about the test.

When did it quit being about the students?

Michael Deshotels at Louisiana Educator writes:

Remember the term academic freedom? This is an almost forgotten concept in today’s world of test teaching and scripted learning. But academic freedom has allowed the American education system to foster creativity in both teachers and students for many years before this recent trend of standardized education. It was an education system that has made the U.S. the world leader in scientific achievement, literature, and art. It is not a good idea to abandon academic freedom in hopes of small increases in standardized test score.

As a veteran educator it hurts me to see this happening to students.  I don’t teach English: I teach kids, and I care deeply about my students.  To see their eyes glaze over when the slides come up and the informational texts come out, when the script is read, is so disheartening.  So yes, I’m that teacher that goes off script. But I’m also speaking out.  Tentatively and yes, with some fear.  I love my job and don’t want to lose it.

At this point I can only hope that this fad goes the way of all of the others that I’ve seen in my twenty-three years.  These programs hang around for five years or so and then we reinvent the wheel and do something else.  I hope I can survive this one.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport. She is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.