A Crisis of Faith

“This is what is best for kids”

Seven words that I use to go to often as I planned and taught. When I went to professional development sessions people would say, “research shows” (another favourite) that this is what is best for kids. Every time something new that was best for kids came by we all shifted.

In reality most decisions are not made from the mindset of what is best for kids. What is easiest, what is most cost efficient, what is going to lead to the least discomfort? These are more so the guides to decisions.

Today a well known (in the Edutwitter world) Administrator posted about how thrilled he was that a teacher on his team responded with something like, “I will do anything you think is best for kids”. The comment had me wondering and then doubting how often that truly is what informs our decision making?

In Florida and Texas they are passing laws banning masking in school while a pandemic starts to target children, here in Alberta we already had constraints put on our response to Covid first by a government and then by local pressures dependent on where you lived. Are these decisions in the best interests of our students? Forget about staff for a minute, hundreds of kids potentially carrying a virus that has demonstrated long term and lethal effects with 0 mitigation and safety procedures put in place. Zero.

What could possibly go wrong?

In Alberta we have a government that is working hard to achieve super villain status. Beyond hiring a racist residential school denier to write a Social Studies curriculum we are taking ridiculous steps backwards in English and Math with an ideologically fuelled regressive curriculum.

Is this what is “best for students”

As I am working on my Masters I have been doing more academic reading and specifically focused on Literacy. This current course is focused on Early Literacy. I have been a teacher for 11 years. I worked with younger kids at the beginning of my career and I learn from legitimate experts in the field of literacy every day. The shift our government and in turn school divisions will be taking regarding reading instruction will contribute to what Kelly Gallagher coined as Readicide on a massive scale.

Students are going to be drilled with decoding work, nonsense words and ridiculous decodable books until they hate reading. They will get to higher grades and be proficient word callers who hate reading because comprehension is hard and making meaning is a key point of literacy that is often ignored by folks pushing SoR (Science of Reading). Just the other day Orton-Gillingham posted on Twitter that Language instruction should be focused on spelling and phonics until 8th Grade. This is ridiculous AND is the direction we are heading because after all those with power think it is “what is best for kids”.

Narratives are created and pushed. Evidence is provided to support a singular claim, someone who carries the title of “expert” sells themselves as the only voice who knows and then creates a program to sell people and people sign up because it is “best for kids.” We no longer need evidence we just need those magic words.

Reading is not monolithic- Carol Leroy

When I sit and read with littles or they read to me the joy comes in the story telling. The meaning making, the connections. I don’t think a student has ever told me their favourite school activity was decodable books or reading some nonsense about and Pat the Ant in Matt’s Pants.

Obviously we must work with kids to help them achieve accuracy in their reading but are we to sacrifice joyful literacy to get there? Is teaching kids to hate reading really what is “best for kids”.

I sit here with about a month left of holidays and I am nervous about what this year will look like. Covid certainly is playing a role in that. Having people tell me they are unsure I am the right person to teach the courses I have been assigned is certainly another. Sitting and helplessly watching decisions being made by a government with almost no understanding of actual teaching to be told their wisdom determines it is “best for kids” is another.

Today I am sitting planning to do work that will prepare my students for the world they are heading into. While I am doing that I am prepping for idiotic standardized tests that measure nothing more than test writing abilities. Because they are clearly “what is best for kids”.

I guess we could call today a Crisis in Faith. An uncertainty that decisions made are “what are best for kids”

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