Today staff members at my school had a special teacher training. It wasn’t about learning how to teach, oh no. It wasn’t about reaching out and finding ways to connect with kids, or how to improve our communication with the families who love those kids.
We didn’t meet so that we could learn how to help kids to fall in love with literature, or how to help them to become better consumers of new technologies. We weren’t talking about bullying, or nutrition or science or social skills or vocabulary.
We were being trained in how to maintain security during the state tests.
A half hour of time dedicated to these little gems: “If one child has not yet finished the test and it is lunchtime, secure all of the test booklets, then walk all of the students to the cafeteria. Do NOT leave the test booklets in the classroom unless an approved adult is able to watch over them.” (Um?? Scuse me? There is only one of me. How do I watch the booklets and walk the kids to lunch?)
And this one: “If there is a fire or other emergency alarm collect and secure all of the test booklets before evacuating the students.”
I am not making this up.
After all of this pure and unadulterated bullshit, we all had to sign on the dotted line, to prove to the state that we had attended the training. As we signed our names, some of us grumbled about the waste of time and effort. One of my colleagues said, “Just wait until next year, when all of us will have to be fingerprinted.”
You got that right: FINGERPRINTED.
The great state of Massachusetts, under the leadership of our nice liberal governor, has passed a law requiring that all teachers will now need to be fingerprinted, and that those prints will need to be sent to the FBI where they will be matched against a registry of convicted criminals.
Now, as a professional who has dedicated all of my intellectual, emotional and spiritual energy to raising and teaching children for the past 30 years, I am all about trying to keep kids safe.
But I am 57 years old; I have been teaching since I was 27. I have never, ever, ever had even one single question raised about my relationships with my students. I am under NO suspicion. I have never had a bad evaluation, or a serious parental complaint or a reason to have my performance questioned. Not once. Not ever.
And yet, my state is demanding that I submit to being fingerprinted, as if I have been arrested for some crime. As if I have stolen, or killed or molested or hurt. As if there is any reason to suspect that I am a felon.
I have to submit to this humiliation, and I have to accept the fact that the federal government (you know the one I mean, the one that is so desperate to cut costs) is going to own and hold and keep my fingerprints on file so that it can spend time and money checking those prints against the ones taken from all those murderers, rapists and thieves.
What the HELL?
I hope that you can see the multitude of problems with this plan. If you can’t, please let me lay them out for you, at least as I see them.
1) All those “education reform” people keep saying that we need to recruit and keep “the best” of our young people, that our teachers need to be the very best, most qualified people possible. We need a great teacher in front of every classroom. You really think that treating them like potential felons is a good way to do that?
2) We keep hearing how schools need to cut cots, how we need to live within our means, how we can’t keep spending money on things that don’t directly help kids. At roughly $60 a pop for each fingerprint check, are we really going to ask districts to fork over thousands of dollars to make sure of what they already know?
3) How is it going to make even one child safer to check the fingerprints of people like me, people who have been standing in front of classrooms for decades, with absolutely no suspicion of any wrongdoing, ever?
4) If you think that it is necessary to have the FBI check on every person who works with kids, are you ready to pay for fingerprinting of doctors, psychologists, priests, ministers, boy scout leaders, soccer coaches, dance teachers, camp counselors, cheerleading coaches, drama teachers, nurses, dentists, football refs and the people who work at Chuck E Cheese?
I have to be honest here. I love my job. I have been pretty good at it. I have adjusted to the state tests, the stupidity of those test security rules, the new curriculum, the decrease of available resources and the constant public criticism of my profession.
But I will NOT stand in front of an ink pad and submit my fingerprints for review by the FBI. I won’t do it.
I am not a criminal. I do not deserve this humiliation and I won’t do it. I am willing to lose my job over this issue. I. Won’t. Do. This.
Let me leave you with this one unsettling thought:
My elected officials demand that I submit to fingerprinting so that I can keep doing what I have been successfully doing for almost 30 years.
But they won’t even ask me to fill out a form if I become so enraged by the process that I decide to go to a gun show and buy an AR-15 and 3,000 rounds of ammunition.
Somebody out there damn well needs to be outraged, and it can’t be only me.