Once in Montreal I visited a French high school with my students from South Carolina and met and spent some time with the censeur (notice the word) as he was doing his thing of being an assistant principal. As we walked around the school I observed a palpable sense of fear from the students who passed him.
We have such a person in the high school at my current school, who comes after kids missing from class with a quality that is robotic and threatening and not soft and inquiring. Not that it should be soft, right? Consider the person’s position. He is a censeur, right, a position molded in the France of tens of thousands of Inspector Javerts.
It’s Stendhal’s Le Rouge et le Noir in our schools – the red and the black. Javert wears the red. The bishop who reminds Jean Valjean that he forgot the candlesticks wears the black. One outranks the other in French society for a reason. So why are there so many Javerts at work in our schools right now if the real standard in this profession is not Communication but Compassion, as we have been taught?
I think we should be soft. We are working with children. They are under stress. There are two aspects of a child’s experience in schools that I have not noticed until recently despite my long career – one is how kids fear the discipline system on a kind of micro level (being tardy causes problems, etc.) and on a much bigger level, if they really go out of line (cut a class, skip school, get into a fight, etc.)
There are many smilingly mean and controlling teachers now in our schools, working out stuff from their own childhoods at the expense of our children. How do they keep getting away with it?
Are we all blind? Is there not a place for the adults in our nation’s school buildings to model compassion for young people who are struggling with so much right now just trying to grow up? How many more kids have to hurt themselves for us to see that is happening right now. How long is it going to take TPRS teachers to examine not just how we teach but the real thing that needs looking at – how we assess?
We have always thought that a certain degree of meanness in our schools is normal. Now for the first time as a result of our discussion on authentic assessment we are starting to see things differently. It’s clear here on the blog now.
Authentic assessment. Get it? Authentically human assessment. It is not too late to bring the softer hearts that are now needed into our school buildings. We can do it.
I feel that everyone is doing their best they can at any given moment of their lives. We are doing our best. Our students are doing their best. We cannot see what is happening beneath the surface of our students. But we can make a better set of rubrics than jGR, ones that bring compassion into the assessment process, so that l’Evêque Myriel’s compassion overrules l’Inspecteur Javert’s meanness in our schools.
Angie, Russ, jen, Lance and others have started designing and testing their new rubrics already. Knowing these people, I am assured that they are based in the heart. Hopefully Claire supplies us with some strong guidelines as this evolves.
Congratulations on making it through another in the profession of teaching. Rest. But let’s start thinking about next year, 2015-2016, the Year of Assessment on this blog.