Sometimes it feels as if no one trusts teachers any more.

The bureaucrats want to use a “rubric” to evaluate us now, with categories that say things like, “Keeps student learning in mind.”   Sigh…  What do they think we’re keeping in mind while we are busy teaching kids?

The politicians love to talk about “increasing teacher accountability” in “our failing schools.”  Even when you teach in an upper middle class school district where 97% of the students go on to four year colleges, they want to lump you in with “our failing schools”.

State education leaders keep pushing for more rigorous testing of students so that we can document progress in every child in every subject every year. (No pressure, kids.  Just keep taking your anxiety meds and practicing those breathing techniques; you’ll be fine.)

They don’t trust us to teach what we’ve always taught; now there are national standards for us to follow to make sure that we cram every chosen factoid into their little heads.  And if the factoid isn’t on the list? Why, “They don’t need to know that!”

The people outside of our classroom don’t trust us at all.  Oh, not at all. To them, we are a bunch of idiots who can’t make a decent decision about anything.

But here’s what I learned in the past three days, when I was away on an environmental camp adventure with our 75 fifth graders and a group of chaperones.

Those fifth grade parents sure do trust us!

They packed the kids’ bags, kissed them goodbye and sent them off on the big bus for two nights with us in charge.  If you have children of your own, you understand how huge that step really is, and how much trust and faith it takes for a parent to hand over a young child to someone else’s care.  They allowed us to guide their children through hikes, night walks, a visit to a beaver dam, and even a climb up a huge rock wall with ropes and harnesses.  They let us take charge of the eating and drinking and the tucking in at night.

THAT is trust.

More importantly, to me, I also learned (or was reminded), that those children really trust us, too.  For three days, I heard little voices saying, “Karen, watch this!”  and “Karen, let me tell you what we did!” When they were homesick, they looked for their teacher. When they felt scared, or bumped a knee, or needed an inhaler, they looked for their teacher.

At the top of our hike to the ledge, where we stood looking out over an unbelievable panoramic view of mountains and lakes, I suddenly felt a little body, leaning hard against my back. I turned to find one of my students with her hands over her face, shoulders shaking.  I put both arms around her and asked what was wrong, “It’s too scary!  I’m afraid I’ll fall!”  We turned our backs to the view, and I stood between her and the dizzying drop that felt much too close.  After a few minutes, she caught her breath, and asked me to hold her hand so she could look.  Within another few minutes, she was snapping pictures and shouting “tongo!” with her friends, waiting for the echoing shout back from the camp below.

The view from the ledge.

THAT is real trust.

So the hell with the bureaucrats and the politicians and the bean counting educational consultants.  The distrust between them and teachers is a mutual affair.

The people who matter most, the ones who know us and watch us work every day, those people do trust us.

And that’s what really counts


10 responses to this post.

  1. I couldn’t agree more! And they keep adding more and more requirements!!!! I was writing a grant from our state council on the arts for a small group of children with disabilities. It had to meet certain state standards. The details were so ridicules! Whatever happened to common sense and fun in learning! So, I complete empathize with you!


  2. We must be vigilantly mindful of “what really counts”.


  3. When you’ve cared for and nurtured someone, it’s difficult to trust that anyone else will watch over them like you do. It’s not just parents that have to let go and let others take over. What trust you must have in the sixth grade teacher to turn them over at the end of the term…


  4. I ran across this article on the subject. It may not lift your spirits, but it’s worth a read:


    • Wow.
      One one hand, I sure feel better about my job in Massachusetts. On the other, what a terrible and sad statement. It reinforces my absolute belief in a federal education system, rather state based.


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