I have two classes on Thursdays, back to back, and they just met for the first time yesterday.
Boy, is that pairing going to be interesting.
The first is called Assessment. I had a chip on my shoulder when I walked into the room, because I didn't feel happy that 3 credits of this 32 credit program are on assessment alone. This spoke volumes to me of where current public education priorities lie.
But (I bet you saw this coming) the first class already challenged my preconceived notions and forced me to think more deeply about the big picture of assessment, not just the standardized, high-stakes kind that were on my mind. There will be a lot of discussion in this class about informal assessment, and how to use it to evaluate my own teaching. This is a focus that makes sense to me. And regarding standardized testing, the sharp and extremely prepared professor said: "There are rules to follow that are in state law, and I will help you understand them, because you are a professional, and you must know the law."
Okay. 10 minute sprint across campus, and I'm in my Education Policy class. The welcoming, engaging professor shows us a documentary about some young students who organize a cross country trip for their friend with Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy, which becomes an awareness-building tool for wheelchair accessibility and a fundraising tool for DMD research. How their own awareness grew and how they built their coallition was meant as a model for our work in education. She said this: "Anyone who works with young children is an advocate. You are an advocate, and you need to understand policy, so if someone tells you, well, that's the policy and we can't change it, you'll know whether that's true or not."
All five of my classes this semester are challenging and useful, but the juxtaposition of these two classes--these two roles to envision myself in--is likely to break open my head to a lot of new ideas. Break open my heart, too.
PS. I highly recommend that film, Darius Goes West. It's a powerful story, a marvelous cause, and it manages to still be light-hearted and joyful while it takes on a heavy issue. There is no cure for DMD, a genetic disease. It is 100% fatal to the children, mostly boys, who are born with it, and they normally die in their late teens or very early twenties. I just checked, and it doesn't seem to be on Netflix, but I bet it will be in a good public library in your area. Or, if you choose to buy it for $20, $17 of that will go to Charley's Fund, which is working to find a cure within the current DMD kids' generation. Check it out here.