Our mantra for the new year is to "Amplify".

We will seek to amplify our message, our goal of bringing the professionalization of teachers to more and more people.  We will amplify our product line, rolling out 3 new free tools this year.

And finally, we will amplify the voices of everyday teachers.

Danielle Codey is a high school English teacher in New Jersey.  We will be focusing on her, and her experiences, for the next few weeks on the site.

If you are interested in sharing your story on the site, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

#Talk2Teachers

Danielle Codey

High School English Teacher | New Jersey
Posts by Danielle

Let us know you’re interested and we will get back to you to schedule a timeline for sharing your guest post.

Control

Have you ever experienced a lack of respect for your professional judgment as a teacher? It seems to beg the question: “who is really in control of our classrooms?”. Teacher Danielle Codey shares her experience.

Teaching, when done well, truly engages your entire being and occupies unbelievable amounts of your mental space. My ideas as an educator were never scarce and neither were the ideas of my co-workers. There were awesome projects that came to fruition. There were lessons I created that truly made an impact. There were writing assignments that transcended what kids thought they could do. Despite this, there were plenty of ideas that faded away.

The first time I realized how little control I had over my own classroom was at my first teaching job. Part of the English curriculum at this district was to assign “at home” reading books. There were six books students were instructed to read at home. We were to quiz the students on these books and they were to write one essay about each one. They were not the primary part of our curriculum, but rather a supplementary piece. About halfway through the year, students were assigned a book they actually really liked. It was the first one they made an honest attempt to read, and so I ran with it. During a discussion on one of these books, my supervisor dropped into the class for a surprise observation. I felt relieved. Yes, she came on a great day. The kids love this book. The discussion will be heartfelt and real.

Oh, how wrong I was.

My supervisor told me my skills were great. I had an awesome rapport with the kids and knew how to lead a discussion, but she had to dock me a point for what we were discussing.

“This is an at-home reading book. They take the quizzes, write the essay, and move on. Class time is for the curriculum. You shouldn’t be diving this deep into these at-home books.”

Um, what? I was dumbfounded. Although I was only four months into my teaching career, I was no idiot. I knew my lesson was awesome. Kids were paying attention, they were listening to each other, there was flow in the conversation, and the book was referenced often. It was GOOD. I cried and cried and failed to understand why that wasn’t considered “exemplary.” In retrospect, I understand I wasn’t being “compliant.” The same stupid standards we put onto our students are also put on educators. It did not matter that what I did was better than the norm. It did not matter that the students had a fun and engaging day in English class. What mattered was my compliance. I failed to comply. Districts don’t want teachers who don’t comply. They don’t want teachers who question why something is the way it is. Don’t rock the boat. That was my first real lesson as an educator.

I failed to comply. Districts don’t want teachers who don’t comply. They don’t want teachers who question why something is the way it is. Don’t rock the boat.

Because of a “written curriculum,” I was supposed to pass up a good learning opportunity.

The further along I went in my career, the more I realized how interest and engagement are just buzz words that are thrown around. The people in charge don’t actually care whether or not the kids are engaged. They care about graduation rates, test scores, and the image of the school. I never understood why boards of education, curriculum councils, and supervisors failed to understand that all of those things would improve if kids were more engaged. Kids would be more engaged if curriculums were updated. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp.

It all roots back to the idea that the teacher is not viewed as a professional. The teacher is seen as a vehicle through which information is passed. We are disseminators of information. We are not truly in control. What’s unfortunate though, is that it looks like we are. We are the ones standing in front of the students. We are the ones responding to emails late at night. We are the ones doing the truly important work of trying to get young people interested in and curious about the world around them. The facade of power and control is misleading. It’s misleading to parents, students, and even those entering the profession. My brother wanted to be a history teacher, but luckily for him, I was already in my second year of teaching when it would have been time for him to enter the field. He decided against it. “I see what you go through, I want no part of it.” We lost a potential rock star that day. My brother’s career took a different turn, and he’s better for it. Until teachers have more autonomy, control, and are seen as true professionals, we will continue the cycle of subpar curriculums, boring classrooms, and the going through the automated monotony that is currently American high school.

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