Wendy Bradshaw is a public school teacher in Polk County, Florida. Last week, she resigned from the school district and posted her resignation letter on Facebook. It’s been shared nearly 65,000 times.
“Like many other teachers across the nation, I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education.Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process. I am absolutely willing to back up these statements with literature from the research base, but I doubt it will be asked for.”
This is a woman who has devoted her life to education. And when she gave birth to her own daughter in June of this year, she was filled with dread with the idea that in just five years her child would have to enter into our broken educational system: “I will not subject my child to this disordered system, and I can no longer in good conscience be a part of it myself.”
We’ve been speaking about our broken educational system for years — it’s only been magnified by common core testing standards and a system that seems to value order and testing over experience and developmental learning. Only, when our children enter into this system, they are still children. They remain children who crave dynamic learning – yet we’re slamming them into desks, reducing recess and physical play, and forcing them to learn in ways that provide no room for disagreement or interpretation. We’re creating little bots. Over-worked, over-stressed, little bots.
“The children don’t only cry. Some misbehave so that they will be the ‘bad kid’ not the ‘stupid kid’, or because their little bodies just can’t sit quietly anymore, or because they don’t know the social rules of school and there is no time to teach them. My master’s degree work focused on behavior disorders, so I can say with confidence that it is not the children who are disordered. The disorder is in the system which requires them to attempt curriculum and demonstrate behaviors far beyond what is appropriate for their age.”
My child just entered kindergarten. We recently moved from Florida where the pre-k cutoff dates were different, essentially forcing him to skip pre-k and start kindergarten as a four-year-old. It didn’t work. He couldn’t sit for 6 hours with one 20 minute recess. His teacher quickly began reporting that he was “distracted” and had a hard time sitting still, and seemed “tired.” Well, yeah – he was four years old. He was used to having a nap. He was used to running around outside for hours during the day. Within weeks, the school psychologist was calling me to talk about various interventions including speech therapy.
My child speaks fine. He’s been reading since he was three years old. He’s a normally well-engaged, happy child. Within days of being called aside for “testing” at his new school, he was saying things to me like “I hate school. School makes me sad.” I pulled him and put him in a private pre-k because the school wouldn’t allow him to enter the state-sponsored one since he missed the birthday cut off by a month.
His private pre-k is play based and much more active. He’s back to his old self again. Happier. Engaged. Not saying things like, “School makes me sick.” I’m dreading sending him back into the public school system next year, and trying to figure out how to scrape up the money to send him to a private kindergarten. I don’t want to do that. I want my child to be in public school.
It’s refreshing to hear a teacher stand up and voice her frustration. What are we doing? Teachers aren’t happy, students aren’t happy, and there is mounting evidence of failure and a lack of transparency. Still we push on. Why? How many students have to be guinea pigs? How long will teachers be blamed for failures in our system?
“The disorder is in the system which bars teachers from differentiating instruction meaningfully, which threatens disciplinary action if they decide their students need a five minute break from a difficult concept, or to extend a lesson which is exceptionally engaging. The disorder is in a system which has decided that students and teachers must be regimented to the minute and punished if they deviate. The disorder is in the system which values the scores on wildly inappropriate assessments more than teaching students in a meaningful and research based manner.”
Bradshaw told Fox 13 News that she plans to go to Tallahassee with some fellow educators to lobby lawmakers in the state capital. Good for her. I, for one, refuse to sit idly by while my very young child is labeled as “needing intervention” because he acts his age.
Enough is enough. Teachers like Bradshaw shouldn’t be forced to leave a broken system, they should be valued for what they know and listened to.