Gardeners will tell you that the definition of a weed is a plant that grows in a place where a human does not want it to. They also curse many weeds because weeds are tough, their roots grip the soil, and they don’t give up easily. Many weeds will grow back from the slightest bit of root left in the soil. Others spread underground and pop up in the unlikeliest of places. When we get down in the weeds, we find education hanging on, despite the best efforts of many humans to pull it out, burn it up, and eradicate the last vestiges of child development in favor of an award gained through a committee putting marks on a scorecard a/k/a annual state standardized testing.
The fight between weeds and the herbicidal gardener is ongoing, everchanging, and eternal.
The fight between those who insist on growing and being what they determine and those who want to say, “Sorry, but that’s not what we had in mind for you.”
The fight between teachers who are child development experts and know how to enhance that process and those who say, “But that’s not on the test. That won’t show up in test scores. That won’t help a school grade. Dammit, you’re going to make me look bad.”
Down in the weeds, we find district administrators still insisting on teacher evaluations, classroom walkthroughs, and interim testing as if a pandemic wasn’t raging through the world. Teachers don’t need to spend time identifying who is quarantined, how those students can learn at home via instructional videos and alternate assignments, contacting parents, and the like; they need to make sure they wrote the current day’s standard on the board word for word leaving nothing out. Administrators are tasked to visit classrooms to document if the standard is on the board, if the lesson adheres to the standard, if the teacher is being compliant or really implementing district micromanagement of the classroom, and if teachers are every day assessing student learning on that standard in a meaningful way that is documented.
Down in the weeds, a blight is destroying the crop, but the gardeners are singing about the end of the world and they feel fine.
Districts don’t trust school leaders, either. Down in the weeds, they are using technology to time how long administrators are staying in classrooms to do all of the above. Only unions are standing between that nonsense and high-tech surveillance of teachers.
Down in the weeds, districts are still conducting testing, sorting the results, teacher by teacher, and leaning on principals to do something about the teachers whose results they don’t like.
What the hell is wrong with them?
They don’t have enough teachers to fill their classrooms, but they think bare soil is preferable to anything green that will grow. But the world awaits the first announcement of success of anyone who grew anything over the internet. The virtual world is not the real world.
A lot goes on down in the weeds. Bacteria, bugs, and wind spread disease. The gardeners either think they have the blight beaten or that it won’t get worse.
But Thanksgiving is coming. The most family-gathering holiday of the year.
None of this will matter soon. The blight is real. Down in the weeds, the garden will be closed.
Do not despair. That is when weeds flourish.
Your children will be okay.