I Am A British Teacher & I Hate Myself
Teacher Of Truth

I’m a high school (secondary) teacher in the States and frankly, there are many similarities between the high stakes testing that is occurring in our respective countries. It is sad, it is bullshit, and it does, in so many ways, get in the way of real teaching. All of that being said, you are treating this a death sentence to teaching when it need not be.

Part of what makes me different than most teachers is that I fell into it by accident. In college, I played football, and after not getting into medical school on my first go-round, I decided to play another year (since I had remaining eligibility) and get a teacher’s license as a back up plan. My family has strong ties to education, and, as it turned out, all of my siblings have ended up in the education field despite none of us really planning it out that way. I became a teacher because I loved it so much it became my plan A. I love the relationships I build and the ability to positively impact the lives of the students I see every day.

There are parts of my job that suck — dealing with high stakes testing from day one, the endless meetings about how we can improve the grade our school gets from the national and state governments, and the wasted time spent on pointless protocol just being the tip of that iceberg — however, the vast majority of my job is great because of the time I get with students. The change I notice in them over the course of the year is astounding and, often, completely unexpected. The fact I have students return to see me year after year even when they no longer have any reason to still leaves me shocked and immensely proud of the work I’ve done.

My personal key to dealing with this new, unprecedented level of government oversight is not caring about the tests or what the kids are “supposed” to learn. Instead, I focus on what I truly believe is important: teachings kids to believe in themselves, how to learn, and how to apply themselves in challenging situations so that they can succeed. In the end, teaching a kid confidence and how to overcome challenges is FAR more important than teaching them the content to a test. Do I teach what the state tells me? Damn right I do. If you do it right, though, that content is background noise to the real lessons. I’ll be damned if I can’t find a way to relate the challenges faced in the classroom to real life. High School IS preparing kids for real life — it’s about dealing with the bullshit but still having fun along the way. In my opinion, I fail as a teacher if I make kids believe that a test is a be-all, end-all for their life. I hope that my kids leave me with confidence in themselves, with confidence in their ability to find a way to succeed, and only lastly with some content knowledge. My kids probably don’t leave my class with textbook level memorization of what’s on some stupid state exam, but no one really ever does. Someone knowing less but having grit is far more likely to succeed on a stupid test (and in life) than some robot with encyclopedic knowledge. And by and large, the results have panned this out.

TL;DR — focus on life skills, fun, and confidence. You’ll have more fun, they’ll have more fun, and they’ll be more successful. Once you start pandering to test content, you’ve lost to the machine. Don’t create test-taking robots graded only their performance. Create kids with the right mindset and success takes care of itself.

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