The Philadelphia School Crush Saga

28 Aug

A Teacher’s Point of View

Notes from the Field

Submitted by Joy of Teaching

P1010101_2Over the summer I spent time in doctor’s waiting rooms  and began playing the online game sensation “Candy Crush Saga” to whittle away the time.  The game is based upon matching three similar colored candy pieces to reach certain goals and advance to higher levels.  Although the game is a time consuming distraction, it can also be maddening.

As one advances through the levels the goals become more difficult to reach.  Impending obstacles, like growing chocolate, race to swallow up a candy combination that you are carefully planning to make.  Well placed time bombs explode if you don’t get to them first by wasting precious moves.  It was at some point while playing the Candy Crush Saga game that I realized that the game changes the rules as it moves along.  A stripped candy mix that once cleared two columns now only clears one.  A wrapped candy that would zap those bombs now misses them by a mile.  At times, I have seen the game actually cheat!  Candy that should move one way in a well planned move suddenly disappears! I came to the realization that the game will let you win, if and when it is ready to.

Alas, if you do not reach the set goal after five attempts, your game is over for 30 minutes.  However, you can pay to play!  This is how Candy Crush Saga earns revenue of $633,000 per day.  The other day, while making the 76th attempt at level 139, and mulling over all of the ongoing Philadelphia School District drama, I realized the teachers of the Philadelphia School District are all just playing one big game of Philadelphia School Crush Saga.

This game begins quite similarly in that teachers begin their days trying to differentiate, or match, curriculum to the ever divers combination of students assigned to them.  The goals in this game are test scores.  If your students don’t reach this pre-set goal, the Superintendent, Mayor, Governor and Education Reformers flash the banner across the city “Level Failed” (womp, womp, womp).

But as all good teachers do, and a good teacher is defined by this, they continue on and keep trying to reach the goal of student success.  A level reached is a small success and a teacher moves their students to the next level.  Each level starts out like the others, but soon you discover that the Governor, SRC and Superintendents are swallowing up precious resources!  Reach the goal but with less and less!  The teachers scramble, readjust and with the odds against them, they move the students to the next level!

One would think it would get easier, but no here come the Philadelphia School Partnership with their millions of dollars dropping time bombs all over the place.  “Teachers aren’t doing their jobs!” POW! “Teacher’s don’t need security” POW!  “Teacher’s are what is wrong with this game” POW! POW! POW!

Now the teacher’s are scrambling, wasting precious time dodging and putting out bombs before the student’s right to an equitable education ends at the school house door (womp, womp, womp).  The teachers are struggling trying to meet the goals for their students but it seems like it is futile…and then the teacher focuses on the goal.  The teacher continues to work with the students. The hard work pays off, bombs deflected, goals reached.  The students have been successful!

On the next level, the teacher realizes the rules have changed and no one has told them.  That curriculum once hailed as your student’s savior, now it is ineffective.  Those pesky AYP goals you need to reach?  They are only for public schools; the State Education Secretary will change them for the Charter Schools only.  Oh, the teacher contract has too many rules? We can just change them right in the middle of the game.  Do not rest players, here come contract negotiations. POW! POW! POW!

Now, if you want to continue as a player in this game, all you need to do is pay-to-play.  The state and local politicians will be happy to collect money to allow you, your business or your nephew to continue playing.  The Charter School operators are more than happy to extend learning opportunities to those that have the resources to extend the game.  Candy Crush Saga makes $633,000 dollars a day for goodness sake!  There are plenty of players willing to pay their way into the game.  Those who can’t afford to play, game over, and level failed (womp, womp, womp).

So, this is what I had in mind this summer during all those Candy Crush Saga games.  We have been playing a very-real game in Philadelphia, one that risks way more than some Facebook bragging rights.  The future of public education in this city and state are at risk.  And like Candy Crush it is maddening and confusing and very often disrespectful to the people who play the game every day.

The resiliency of the teachers in the Philadelphia School Crush Game is admirable.  They show up every day with one goal, to help struggling students succeed.  They are willing to do whatever it takes to take their students to the next level. I know because I am one of them.  I wanted to give up at level 30, but for some reason I continued, even when I knew the game was stacked against me.  I persevered as all Philadelphia teachers will do no matter the bombs, the resource-eating carpetbaggers, the rule changers.  You see, I could have stopped at level 30…but I am up to level 140 and I still have 220 levels to go!



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