Everything I love about teaching has become extinct!

Ellie Rubenstein, a teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in the North Shore School District, Illinois, north of Chicago resigned her teaching position via Youtube. According to her everything she loved about teaching has become extinct. She is passionate and dedicated teacher who strives to educate and nurture her students but now is not able to do what she believes in because she is forced by the administrators to use standardized test which do not reflect higher end thinking. She feels that true spirit of teaching has been crushed by in hands of administrators.

I would like to quote something from her speech that resonated with me – “Raising students’ test scores on standardized tests is now the only goal. And in order to achieve it, the creativity, flexibility and spontaneity that create authentic learning environments have been eliminated. Everything I loved about teaching is extinct.”

What are your thoughts on this video?

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9 thoughts on “Everything I love about teaching has become extinct!

  1. When I watched this video I began to think about Bloom’s Taxonomy. The highest level of Bloom’s taxonomy is create. We are told to use Bloom’s in our lesson planning and create lessons that allow students to move through the different levels and ultimately reach the ‘create’ level. My question is, with the shift towards standardized testing, how does a student reach the create level?

    • I myself have been struggling to get an answer to the question you asked “With the shift towards standardized testing, how does a student reach the create level?”
      The pressure of Standardized testing on teachers may compel them to prepare students for the test. This will hinder the overall learning of the student as an individual and create a gap making the whole learning boring for students as well as teachers. The students will not be able to display their creativity which is the most important aspect of Learning (Highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy)
      To prepare the students for the future should be the goal and not just for some test. In order to make students successful in their lives they need to be taught to relate knowledge from several areas into their lives. It is sad that learning will not be concrete if we focus on standardized testing!

  2. wow, wow, wow, that is intense. As a pre-service teacher this worries me about what it is going to be like when I get my first teaching position. The way I dream of teaching sounds like the way in which this women taught her students. I also do not want to be dictated by the having to teach to a test! This does not seem fair, and as standardized tests are becoming effective, will it just be normal for me as I begin my career or will I see that it is getting in the way of my love of teaching and embracing knowledge for my students. I thought we were trying to teach for our students, thinking about what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. My goal as a new teacher was to give my students those opportunities, to have a voice in their education. Now what?

    • This video got me really scared!! Whatever I thought teaching was about seems to vanish after watching the video. With the pressure of standardize testing how can someone expect a teacher to look into the overall development of students.
      Can these pen and paper tests alone determine whether students are learning or whether teachers are effective???
      With only one goal to pass this test do we really expect our children to focus on life learning???
      Coming from a different country the things were already a bit hard for me but after leaning about the School system here its getting even harder. I wanted to teach students making a difference in their lives and bringing the best out of them, but will I be able to achieve it!!
      With so many unanswered questions I am struggling to get a picture of what teaching is about now!

  3. There has always been that question in the back of my mind about this topic. Will I be in the same position Ellie is in? It scares me to think that this may one day be me. Everything that we are learning in University about keeping the creativity and fun alive in our classrooms will be lost it seems once it is time to graduate and find that teaching position we have always wanted. It almost makes me sad to think that our students are being forced to conform to the new ways of standardized testing. Students already have enough worries with the pressures of everyday life and the situations they face and school should be that place where they can come to get away from those everyday pressures. My niece is 4 years old and in Pre-K and I cannot imagine her having to deal with those pressures of testing at that young of age.I breaks my heart to see these kids have their natural talent and creativity stripped from them because of some test scores. School and learning should be all about the student and what they want to learn and how they want to learn and not what an administrator dictates to them.

    I also find it sad that teachers are forced to conform to these ways or, like Ellie said, are being told they are causing a negative atmosphere within their classroom and the school. She and I’m sure many others are standing up for the students, their parents, and for what they believe in. This past year when I left me ECE 325 class I felt so inspired and excited to implement one days the new activities and ideas I have learned in the classroom, but after watching this video it makes me scared of what might happen. My sister-in-law has been teaching for almost 10 years and has just finished her last mat leave. I asked her one day if she is excited to go back to work and this is the first time she answered with NO. She said that because of the move towards standardized testing, everything that she has was excited for every school year and everything she went to University for is being flushed down the toilet. She said it is frustrating to not allow yourself and personality come through to your students because there are so many rules to follow.

    As future teachers I think it is our duty to take a stand in what we believe in and fight for our students, parents, and for what is right. Any comments or thoughts on this post?

    • I am in the same position as you and going through the same emotional turmoil. When I was teaching back home I was in same condition as Ellie. In India they have a system of Examination through out the year, Ist term, 2nd term and then the finals. The teachers are so much occupied finishing the curriculum and preparing the students that they forget about making students follow their interest and passion. The result is that students lose interest and lack motivation. I tried my best to go against this system and focus on each student individually, motivating them and giving them a chance to explore things to find what they are best at, but it was not long that I was asked to answer back to the administration.
      I even tried to explain them that all students cannot express themselves on these test because of which they ultimately get bad grades even after having so much potential in them, but I failed. After 3 years of long struggle the only option left with me was to quit.
      After coming to Canada I was happy that now I would be able to do what I believed in but after watching this video I am confused and scared. I have so many questions in my mind about the Education System here and just busy finding answers to them so that I can have a little peace of mind!

  4. Ellie paints an all too vivid picture of what teaching in today’s schools can be like. Her recollection of life at her school is horrifying; particularly given that it resembles the fears I have about teaching on bad days that I convince myself cannot be true. I cannot imagine the isolation that teachers in this district must feel as a result of the utter lack of support they face. She mentions that even the teacher’s union cannot be counted on to back you.

    As a lot of teachers do, I entered teaching because I relished the opportunity to work alone, at least semi-autonomously, in my own classroom. Any move to take away that autonomy is particularly distressing for me and will be something that I fight for. I hope there are teachers in Ellie’s district who are fighting for that autonomy. I think Ellie making this video is a great step in that direction – people in her community need to understand how bad it is to work under the current administration.

    The administration in her school system is obviously subpar… and that is putting it kindly. However, I cannot help but think that the administrators do not intend to be this way. It seems to me that when one level of a system is working under stress, the system that governs above it must be experiencing that same pressure, and then some. I cannot help but think of the people who work at HMO Claims Offices in the US, who deny medical care for people on tiny technicalities they tease out of the woodwork. Often these people leave work distraught, knowing they signed the paper that killed a person. I believe in human decency, and think that administrators like those in Ellie’s district, must feel similarly.

    • Everything Ellie said about the school administration makes me really sad! A teacher is the one who teaches in the classroom so it is her who should be deciding how to teach kids considering whats in their best interest. The standardized testing do not reflect the students knowledge and skills. There are so many students who do not perform well on “pen and paper test”, so how can we expect to grade their learning. Bad grades will only make these students lose confidence and self-esteem. Do we really want to do that to them?
      Students are our future. We need to nurture them in a way that they succeed in their lives. We need to bring the best out of them and not make them feel low of themselves. But can a teacher do justice to students with so much pressure coming from the administration??

  5. I posted this video to Twitter a day before you posted about it! As I watched, I felt the same ups and downs that this teacher did. By the end, I was tearing up right along with her.

    I’m not going to lie, being that I’m currently living the reality of being a teacher, I was especially touched by her words. While I haven’t shared all of her experience, I have definitely dealt with a lot of pressure coming from, what seems like, every direction. My students are supposed to perform well on a variety of tests my division already does, and our results are tracked very carefully. There is also the continued threat that more standardized tests are coming, “get ready, get ready”. While there is the pressure for students to perform well on all these tests, there is also the definite pressure that comes with getting them there. If your kids do poorly, it’s as though it is a reflection of your own teaching ability and dedication. Relationships do not matter as much as test scores. The up-and-ups would rather post colourful graphs than pay attention to the people who represent them. It is hard.

    What is most difficult is, as this teacher stated, being told to do something that you truly feel is not in the best interest of students. I do not feel that standardized testing reflects a student’s skill or knowledge. It doesn’t reflect personality. It doesn’t reflect relationships built. It doesn’t reflect personal growth and development. It doesn’t reflect citizenship or life learning. And it doesn’t value or account for diversity. Standardized testing feels like taking multiple steps backwards in one foul swoop. When it is being dictated that you must go forward by going where you feel is backwards, it can be very unsettling.

    This can all seem very discouraging for teachers who are just starting out. But I feel there is hope! While the going is certainly tough, we cannot give up for the sake of our students. As this teacher has done, it’s important for us to use our voices to advocate for our students and state what we feel is best for them based on our experience. I also think that as more young, fresh, energized teachers come into the system, they will be able to advocate particularly for the new research that so heftily backs the argument against standardized tests. We (teachers, old and young) are the ones who are most qualified to give our feedback and opinions on learning since we are the ones in the classroom every day witnessing it. We are the ones who can inform on best practice. We are the ones who understand the research and hold the expertise.

    Education is going through a huge shift as we all know and this is a big part of it. It’s not the time to be discouraged, it’s the time to be excited (and nervous, of course) for what shall transpire in the coming years. There will certainly be ups and downs in the process, but there is sure to be amazing learning that will come from it.

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