Why This Teacher Is Marching in Washington

07/30/2011 12:39 pm ET | Updated Sep 29, 2011
  • Martha Infante History Teacher in Los Angeles, Former Teacher of the Year

I am your child's history teacher. You may know me from the Ancient Egypt mummification project your child did in 6th grade when we did a comparative study of beliefs of the afterlife of ancient civilizations. That's a fancy way of saying we mummified a chicken in the classroom, a sneaky way to engage students in analysis and evaluation.

Or you might have heard your child talking about the fascinating way the Mongols conquered Asia in the 13th century with their amazing equestrian skills, but failed miserably to subjugate Japan when the Kamikaze wind sank their armada two times in failed attempts. That was the project where the students researched a primary source scroll depicting the invasion and worked in groups to decipher it.

But that was many years ago. That was before the standardized testing movement resulted in schools giving more time to English and math classes by deducting time from science and social studies. The time is no longer there to explore these fascinating cultures with your children. In some schools, social studies is relegated to summer school, in schools lucky enough to still have funding for summer instruction.

In the English and math classrooms, students must now learn lessons from scripted curriculum geared toward improving test scores, tests designed to measure the lowest levels on Bloom's taxonomy: knowledge and comprehension. If schools don't test high enough, they are placed on the dreaded failing schools list because federal education policy calls for punitive measures such as closing schools or replacing entire staffs if they score poorly. For this reason, many principals turn to test preparation and a narrowed, focused curriculum to keep their schools open.

As a teacher, I know what good education looks like. It's what I would seek for my own child: small class sizes, deep content knowledge by an accomplished teacher, a robust and diverse curriculum and a school that instills the love of learning in all students who walk through the door.

Unfortunately, good education has not resulted from the federal education policy of today and teachers can stay silent no longer.

Today I am marching because I believe in the innovators of our past, the Alexander Graham Bells, the Wright Brothers, the inventors of Google and Apple, the artists, the creators and the geniuses. I'm marching because our brilliant past must not become a footnote in the very books we use in class. Teachers can color our future brightly if given the authority to inform education policy. Thus, in the very finest tradition of our democratic heritage, we are marching to demand a seat at the table. Parents, will you support us?

For more information on the Save our Schools March click here.