Balancing Optimism With Realism…Not So Easy

by lclarcq on April 3rd, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015

While I am optimistic about the possibility of change, I am incredibly realistic about how much work it will take to accomplish. It will be difficult to overcome not only the system which created this issue, it will be difficult to battle the emotional toll that it has already taken. I thought about not posting the following. Some may see it as a rant, or as whining. That is not my intent. It is a perspective. Mine, to be sure, but the perspective of many others I know as well. Why am I certain that this fight will be difficult?

It will be difficult to be positive about schools, education and the future of teaching because we are already feeling enormous, painful pressure to behave in a way that no teacher planned to behave. Some folks are teaching from SCRIPTS written by folks who have never taught a student. These lessons come with a disclaimer that the amount of time needed to accomplish the listed goals IS ALREADY hours more than the contact time teachers will have with their students, but hey, we don’t really care. All of this material will be tested.

We are almost 30 weeks into the school year. At 30 weeks in, we will be expected, again, to evaluate students based on an upcoming test that we have not seen. We will do that so that we can collect data and write an 8+ page document about how we think students will do three months from now on a test we did not write and will not see until the students do.

We will be expected to document how we will change each day of our instruction based upon that 30 week test, even though, because we are professional and intelligent, we have already been quite aware of what each student needs.

It will take at least 8 hours of our time that we would prefer to devote to working with students and creating materials that will truly help them. But there are only so many hours in a day and we are already required to attend 3 times the number of meetings than we were two years ago.

We will also be requested to compare those scores with these students scores at the pre test, 10 week and 20 week mark, in addition to their scores in other teachers’ courses over the last two years. In addition, a suggestion will be made that we might teach better if we also compared, and documented, these scores with the scores earned by the last two cohorts of students who took these tests.

Yet, NOT ONE PERSON has been able to show US the data that says that giving tests and charting data six ways to Sunday has improved the comprehension of material or the skill development of students.

It will be difficult to attend those meetings, which can occur weekly, where at least one portion (but often more) address our lack of ability to teach well, collect data correctly or meet timelines. A second portion will contain a rebuke about how we are not communicating often enough with parents ( phone call plus email plus note home plus warning/ineligible list plus 5 week grade report are not enough???), nor carving enough time out of our planning time to work individually with students.

And completed with the reminder to meet with and communicate our department on a more regular and thorough basis so that we are all on the same page (preferably in the literal sense on the same day.) Oh…and would be be so professional as to forward the agenda and explicitly detailed notes from these meetings to the administration?

In the next 6 weeks we will also be collecting materials to hand in to “showcase” our ability to be “effective” according to a state-mandated rubric. This will be documentation about lesson-planning, community-building, differentiation, working with colleagues, providing PR for the program and district, belonging to professional organizations, contributing the the professional development of others and more. If we hand in too little, we will be graded poorly. If we hand in too much, we have been told it won’t be looked at. However, we haven’t been told how much would be just right. Should we attempt to do the same with our students we would be handed our heads on a platter.

Oh…and the new system doesn’t want to know any of that anyway, but that is not in effect until the next school year, so please comply with the request, and the time it takes, this year. Although it really does not matter. Only if it isn’t done.

Would we also please attend a minimum of two student functions that we are not already organizing, coaching, supervising or chaperoning? The kids like to see that we care. We are not actually taking attendance, but we have noticed that not enough of you are taking time away from your life outside of work to do this.

Please also come with a willingness to work on required curriculum data which most of you will not receive additional pay for (although a select few will…who knows why?) because that work is due by such and such a date. If you are not being paid to do it over the summer or outside of school hours, we have conveniently rescheduled your final exams earlier this year for you so that you can have time during exam week to write curriculum. No, we have no answers as to how you are supposed to prepare your students to achieve those wonderful scores in less time. Yes, we do expect that the students will have work to do and turn in after their final exam but you figure out how to motivate them to do it.

It will be difficult to give up what planning time we do have to help cover classes for which there are no subs.

It will be difficult to give up lunch time to supervise students in the Senior Courtyard.

It will be difficult to pay our own bills late because we are giving financial awards out of our own pockets to recognize outstanding students.

It will be difficult to look at doing this for another year. Another five. Another ten. Or more.

Because it eats away at us emotionally and teaching is a job that requires an enormous amount of emotional and physical stamina. And we are only human.

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