Not Fair

Santa Monica Beach

Santa Monica Beach

Erin and I visited a private school in Flower Mound last week.  The kids are happy at their neighborhood school.  They’ve had good teachers and have made good friends.  And, in general, it’s been a good experience.  But testing mania is testing mania and even when you might try to be “normal”, it takes over the lives of kids and teachers.  Teachers KNOW they will be judged on the results of the test and it takes a pretty brave teacher to take a deep breath and do what’s right for the kids no matter how big the hype gets.

In fact, it’s hard to know what exactly IS best for the kids. People used to say, “If you teach the kids well, testing will take care of itself.” Unfortunately, if everyone else in the world is test prepping and using materials that help you “out-psych” the test and catch the “distractors” and word the questions the way they’re worded on the test, teaching the kids well will NOT necessarily mean they will do well on the test. And if they don’t do well there may be repercussions (like remedial reading instead of band in middle school). There are some schools and teachers who have figured out how to navigate the testing waters without drowning in test prep crap, but from what I can gather, they are few and far between.

At any rate, Erin is checking around and discovered a private school that sounded perfect.  And when we went there it truly was damn near perfect.  Yes, they do test the kids (ITBS, remember that? at the end of the prepping for it, just take some time out to do it and then get back to work) The place was magical.  The teachers were so obviously happy and energized, loved what they were doing and were still going strong with less than two weeks to go in the school year.  The kids were (even the middle schoolers) were happy, engaged, polite, friendly and delighted to explain whatever they were doing.  One class was hatching chicks, another had painted ladies, all had high quality literature that was the basis of the reading program.  The school uses TRIBES…a community building program that I just love.  The classes are small…16 or fewer in each class.  The school is clearly child centered, respectful of kids and their hopes and dreams, expecting great things of them without stressing them out.  The curriculum was rigorous (Lord, I hate that word) but these kids were clearly thriving on it.  Sounds too good to be true, but honestly, I saw it and it was real.  It reminded me of Center back when I taught there.

So here’s what’s not fair.  My grandkids may be going there because, even though they’re not rich, their parents can probably find a way to make it work.  It will take work and doing without other things (trips to Harry Potter land?) but they’ll figure it out.  But EVERY KID deserves a school like this.  Every kid deserves what these kids have.  Every kid deserves authentic literature for reading.  Every kid deserves math that is based on basic understanding of child development.  Every kid deserves a school that believes that building a learning community is important enough to take the time to make it happen.  Every kid deserves a school filled with teachers who are trusted to do what’s best for them.  Every kid deserves a school where testing has its place but isn’t the end all and be all.  Damn….life is so not fair.  I LOVED this school and hopefully my grandkids will be going there.  But what about all the rest of the kids who also deserve this?  What happens to them?

End of rant for the week.  We’re in Los Angeles with Sean and Carly now and loving every minute of it.  Tons to write about …just not now.

Love to all..Have a good Memorial Day Weekend!






12 thoughts on “Not Fair

  1. We hear ya’, Mary, and it’s hearbreaking. Sadly, I’ve been there and done that, and am still not over it. I fought and fought the system, but couldn’t fix it enough for my own children. Keep raising awareness, Mary, allowing your letter to keep circling the globe. Meanwhile, your little ones need this now. You can’t wait while the problem gets fixed…IF it ever gets fixed.

  2. What can I say, Mary? You’ve said it all. Amen.

  3. I’m thrilled your grandchildren are probably going to an independent school next year. I know the difference first hand, as a teacher, parent and grandparent. Unfortunately, this opportunity is not available to everyone, thus widening the chasm between the privileged and those that just get by. Honestly, though, in a society that elevates a bully, braggart, and bigot like Donald Trump, there aren’t too many people open minded enough and with enough intellectual curiosity to support independent education – even if it were free. And don’t forget, those passionate teachers make far less than their public school counterparts. They have to really want to teach to accept those salaries.

  4. Hi Mary. Nothing is ‘fair’. Your kids can go there to make the world a better place, one child at a time. NOTHING is fair. You shouldn’t think about ‘all the other kids that can’t…’ because yours CAN. Feel blessed. Be happy there is a place where kids can learn and not be influenced by those that don’t want to learn. I too am lucky. If it were fair, everyone would have a job they loved. Maybe I should give up my job to someone who really doesn’t love what they do, just to be ‘fair’. You, your family and your grandchildren are truly blessed for a reason. Treasure this opportunity that has been given to you and pass along to them the knowledge that they are blessed. It is what you make it. Enjoy the ride.

    Love you.


  5. Maria del Rocio Costa

    Mary, in your piece you talk about the teachers that are able to navigate the testing atmosphere still looking out for the children and their needs. More needs to be talked about this specially for newcomers to the profession. You were one of those teachers! What makes me sad is that newcomers have no access to the Mary Ginley’s out there that could help them stir those boats and navigate the testing crazed waters of education. One question for your nearly perfect school: what about diversity?

  6. So happy for your grandkids and so sad for those who can’t swing it! It’s been a battle all week at Cranberry and it was due to over testing, REtesting (if you did too well on i-Ready, your teacher cheated), and evaluations. It’s deflating! Congratulations to those who were out to get us, we are exhausted, feeling defeated, angry, saddened, stressed and borderline lifeless which is what i believe they were looking for… BUT some of us still have a little fight left! Mary, we need YOU!! Many of us have said…

  7. As a HS teacher of special Ed emotional disturbed adolescents, my main focus was on loving them and teaching them to love themselves and others. It truly becomes magical.

  8. You are SO right!!! Enjoy Ca love Paula

    Sent from my iPhone


  9. Spot on, Mary.

  10. Yes, every kid does deserve that kind of school. Hopefully, we’ll get back there some day. Hopefully…..

  11. My two youngest grandsons (7 & 9), live in VT. They are now attending the school you’ve just described. It is amazing. Expensive and this isn’t easy for their parents (daughter and SIL), but they are making it work. We recently attended Grandparent’s weekend. A wonderful time exploring with the kids all the great things they are doing and learning (quilt making in their terrific expressive art class that tells the story of each child in the class!!👍). And not hampered by the stressors of the incessant testing. Good luck for your grandkids and their new school.

  12. Irene Callahan

    Yes, one part of the injustice is that the playing field is not even for all kids. Another “no fair” reality is that you do not get a tax break to offset the $ the public school saves when the child’s parents are paying for her education elsewhere. They

    Sent from my iPad


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