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Whats So Cute About Teaching?by Gail Beyrer

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I ran into a friend from high school recently. When she learned I was teaching fourth grade, her reply was, "Oh, thats so cute. That's sweet."

Because I was raised to be polite, I simply smiled and got out of there as fast as I could. But I thought about that conversation all the way home. Cute? Sweet? What does that mean? With today's education standards, I dont think even a kindergarten classroom can be described as cute anymore.

Gail Beyrer

My husband, also a teacher, bore the brunt of my frustration when I arrived home. My voice became increasingly loud (and my husband moved farther and farther away!) as my frustration level grew. "Does this woman have any idea of the New York State Learning Standards?" I sputtered. "Does she know what is expected of a fourth grader in this day and age?"

My students do not sit at a desk coloring pictures (even though that activity has its merits!). They certainly dont play for the sake of playing (another activity that has merits, but simply is not possible!). When my students are sitting, they are more often rating the merits of a written response against a rubric -- using such phrases as "on grade-level," "needs more descriptive words," "uses details from the text," and so on.

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When I think of the skills our students are required to master in order to pass the state's ELA (English Language Arts) exam, I cringe. They are not all ready -- and there is nothing cute about that!

Dont get me wrong; I think the standards are necessary -- even helpful. They validate good teaching. But if we as a profession say that children learn in different ways, then shouldnt their assessments be different as well? If the point of the test is to diagnose learning issues, then why do children who already have been diagnosed have to take the test? Are these questions cute?

There is nothing cute about the issues some of our students have to live with. There is nothing cute about the learning deficits many of them face, deficits that are often influenced by factors out of our -- or their -- control. And there is certainly nothing cute about the behavior problems we must deal with every day.

But if you're talking about their smiling faces -- now, those are cute!

Previous Teacher Diaries

Be sure to see Education World's previous teacher diary features, The First 180 Days: First-Year Teacher Diaries and A First-Year Teacher and Her Mentor.

Article by Gail Beyrer
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01/14/2003