On my first day teaching middle school ESL for the DOE, a veteran teacher smirked, “In case you didn’t know, the Department of Education has nothing to do with education!” I had been teaching adult ESL for 28 years and couldn’t imagine why I was being so harshly forewarned.
This past October, 13 years later, I handed in my retirement papers with almost the exact same words: “I’m so sorry! It’s just that the New York City DOE has nothing to do with education!”
I was not being derisive. I was hurt, frustrated and overwhelmingly sad because after 41 years I could not spend one more day following what I believed was ethically and educationally wrong for my students, for my colleagues and for me. I was frustrated at being asked to perform in a cookie-cutter, show-and-tell, unauthentic way following top-down directives that neither respected nor asked for any input based on my knowledge of teaching and my learners’ needs.
On a practical level, the amount of test prep, pre- and post-testing, data analysis, micromanaged bulletin board designing, curriculum-mapping, photocopying and chart-making required on top of rubric-making, conference-recording, Charlotte Danielson/TC lesson-planning and grading was even more unconscionable than the dearth of textbooks, supplies and professional development actually connected to what my students needed.
All of it would still have been doable if it had proven beneficial for my students, and I could have continued. It didn’t, and I couldn’t.
Paula Moed Izumi, retired