pencils - part three - the conflict

"Mr. Johnson and Mr. Brown, your students never filled out the Migration Packets."

"No, they created independent projects instead," I explain.

"Yes, I saw.  They were cute."

Mr. Brown cuts in, "No, cute is baby bonnets and fluffy bunnies.  What my students created was powerful."

She continues, "But the Migration Packet was more about problem solving."

I argue, "My students had a migration problem that they solved in groups.  It was authentic, connecting ideas of science and social studies and they had to develop a solution . . . "

"Yes, so you solved one problem.  The packet had one hundred problems chosen by some of the best educators that Pencil Island could find. We spent good money on learning tools and you neglected them."

"You bought the wrong tools," Mr. Brown replies.  "I could build a house, but it would be useless if I bought a demolition ball."

I add my thoughts, "My students went deeper into the content and hit every objective you wanted them to hit. The Pencil Packet was a multiple choice marathon."

"I see your point, but it is what it is."  I hate that phrase.  It makes it sound like "what is" cannot change, as if we are reduced to academic fatalism.  "Tell me, will students answer one question in-depth or do multiple choice on our high-stakes test?"

"Multiple choice," we reply in unison.

"And McKinley's Caravan to the Top is all about test scores, right?"

"But . . . "

"And you agreed to do a common pencil-based unit with the rest of the staff."

Mr. Brown corrects her, "Common is shared. Standardized is imposed. Common is horizontal. Standardized is vertical.  I agreed on the objectives that we planned.  I never agreed to standardization, though."

"Look, we even got you photography machines, cameras or whatever they're called, so that you could create motivational PowerSlides for your students.  Yet, you gave dangerous machines to your students."

What she can't see is that the pencil packets were far more dangerous than a camera.

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