There’s More to Teaching Than Standardized Tests and Bureaucracy

In the documentary ‘The Road to Teach,’ Nadia Bercovich finds out that the best educators bring creativity to the classroom.

There’s More to Teaching Than Standardized Tests and Bureaucracy 5 VIDEOS

  • 1:48
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    Nadia's Pit Stop: Intro
  • 1:24
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    Nadia's Pit Stop: Dr. Jackie
  • 1:25
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    Nadia's Pit Stop: Kelly Meyers
  • 1:24
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    Nadia's Pit Stop: Omoju Miller
  • 1:12
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    Nadia's Pit Stop: Mike McGalliard
May 22, 2015·
Tasbeeh Herwees is a journalist and writer from Los Angeles. She has written for Good Magazine, The Majalla, TruthDig, L.A. Currents, and others.

Of the three young millennials we meet in the documentary The Road to Teach, Nadia Bercovich is distinct in her free-spiritedness. The film features her journey across the United States with fellow roadtrippers Rafi Silva and Grace Worm. The trio interviews top educators in the country and receives advice and insight to help them make decisions about their future careers—will they or won’t they become teachers?

While all three of them express interest in pursuing education as a profession, Bercovich appears to be the most skeptical. The 24-year-old artist fears that becoming a teacher might kill her creative spark.

“I care for education; I think it’s one of the most important tools that we can have as humans,” says Bercovich in the beginning of the documentary as she leafs through her drawing notebooks. “But I find it very frustrating that there’s a lot of bureaucracy that goes along with it. I think creativity is more important.”

Certainly, many share Bercovich’s concerns. The homogenization of learning through standardized testing, the imposition of benchmarked curricula, and the disproportionate value placed on numerical scores sometimes makes America’s educational system seem rigid and uninspiring.

But as Bercovich meets and interviews educators in the film, she starts to realize that there might be other options. Among those educators is Sean McComb, a Maryland teacher who was awarded the 2014 National Teacher of the Year Award. McComb says the idea that teachers can’t facilitate creative endeavors in the classroom is not representative of the whole system.

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“There’s probably more room for creativity in the teaching profession than naysayers or media or a loud minority might be led to believe,” says McComb.

McComb will be returning to work at the Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts in the Baltimore County Public School District after handing off the National Teacher of the Year title to the 2015 honoree, Shanna Peeples. At Patapsco High School, he says, teachers have the support and the respect of an administration that allows them to be innovative in their teaching styles. For McComb, this means finding ways to present relevant and exciting literature to his students in ways that will provoke dynamic conversations in the classroom.

“At my school, we allow students to present their work in a way that is personalized to their form of creativity,” he says. “Students can do that through an installation art piece, through a poem, through creating a podcast of a radio play where they create situations in skits.”

These kinds of tools allow teachers like McComb to broaden students’ imaginations without sacrificing the standards of the national and state curricula. “I’ve always dealt with standards,” says McComb. “But we can reach standards without standardizing the delivery of instruction.”

In The Road to Teach, these ideas are echoed by other educators, such as Kelly Meyer, an environmental activist who helped launch the American Heart Association’s Teaching Gardens program, and Mike McGalliard, the president and executive director of the Imagination Foundation. Interviewing them allows Bercovich to see, for the first time, how being an artist and a teacher can be synthesized into one role. When McGalliard tells her that the role of an educator is to design experiences for children, Bercovich is thrilled.

“You just described a job that I didn’t know existed,” she says.