Table of Contents

  • Free Our Climate Crisis Is an Education Crisis

    Edited By the editors of Rethinking Schools Why is there so little teaching or discussion of climate change in classrooms?
  • Cover Story
  • Free Got Coal?

    Teaching about the most dangerous rock in America

    By Bill Bigelow Students play a game promoted by the coal industrythen dig beneath the surface to look at the realities of mountaintop removal mining.
  • Coal at the Movies

    Classroom DVDs on coal and mountaintop removal mining

    By Compiled by Bill Bigelow Video resources for the classroom, plus links to activist websites.
  • Science for the People

    High school students investigate community air quality

    By Tony Marks-Block Ninth graders develop science literacy as they become neighborhood environmental experts and activists.
  • Features
  • Who’s Bashing Teachers and Public Schools and What Can We Do About It?

    By Stan Karp To build an effective movement against the top-down strategies that are ripping public education apart, we need to take a closer look at who wants reform and why.
  • Keepers of the Second Throat

    By Patricia Smith When Chicago stole my mothers tongue, it also stole all her yesterdays. A poets lyric plea for teachers to nurture their students voices and stories.
  • Talking Back to the World

    Turning poetic lines into visual poetry

    By Renee Watson Student poetry about what raised me is woven into graphic art.
  • Bad Signs

    By Alfie Kohn What are the real messages in the inspirational slogans covering classroom walls? Plus some better alternatives.
  • Fuzzy Math

    A meditation on test scoring

    By Meredith Jacks A middle school writing teacher reflects on a day spent scoring districtwide math tests.
  • Support That Can’t Support

    My induction program experience

    By Elaine Engel Are peer mentoring programs bowing to the pressure to teach to the test?
  • Departments Free
  • Action News • Wisconsin Uprising

  • Good Stuff

    By Herb Kohl
  • First and Second title both empty, Update me!

  • Scholastic Inc

    By Bill Bigelow

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Support That Can’t Support

My induction program experience
Support That Can’t Support

It is a cloudy Wednesday afternoon in January, and I am at a critical juncture in my teaching. As a first-year teacher, trying to hold on to my passion and initiative, my developing professional compass is spinning.

Our weekly staff meeting is coming to an end. My 4th-grade cohortall teachers on temporary assignmentstays seated at our table to finish a discussion with the principal. The day before, our principal met with us during lunch to ask if we would pilot a reading regroup project. Our assignment is to look at each students level for a specific reading standard and create homogeneous skill groups across the whole grade level. To accommodate teaching these new groups into our schedule, we need to find time for an additional 30 minutes of instruction in our already test-driven academic day. Our principal is very clear that this reading time comes in addition to the guided reading groups we already facilitate in our classrooms.

As my principal approaches the three of us, the inevitable result of the conversation is already sitting in the bottom of my stomach. Due to top-down pressure to improve test scores, the students in our school are increasingly looked at as data, not multidimensional human beings. If it is not tested, it is usually not taught. The untested subjects (social studies, science, art, music, PE) always get the short end of the stick.

Today is no exception. Our principal proposes we use our social studies and science time for the extra reading block, arguing that our most struggling readers cant read the information from these two subjects textbooks. Even though I expected this, it is no easier to hear. The argument makes no sense. Questions fill my mind and disgust grabs my chest. Isnt there a different way we could build reading skills without eliminating subjects that engage students and evoke critical thinking?

On that Wednesday, I desperately need to discuss the events of the day with an experienced teacher. In fact, I am part of an induction program, BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment)a California state program that is meant to offer support to new teachers as they exit the credential program and begin a job in a district. But I wonder what type of support my induction program will offer. Will the induction program foster my passion, initiative, and growth as a reflective professional educator? Or will the induction program be one more agent to promote the present testing agenda?

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