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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Everything You Do Sends a Message

Yesterday I heard about an event that sent a strong message to so many. Sadly, it was a disheartening message that essentially shot fear and threat through some like me. I'm sure there are others that were comforted and empowered by the response. I wonder how this message will be viewed overtime--perhaps I'm not correct, but the visceral worried and troubling feelings it raised in me makes me feel like something is not right.

I must say I feel the same way when I hear Trump speak and learn of his wins across the country. In many ways it feels like the elephant is sitting on you, snuffing you out, and disallowing any positive change or growth for all but a few who are deemed valuable such as pretty women, white men, gun owners, angry Americans, and wealthy individuals.

On top of that, it was a day when I was mostly a test proctor and the subject of evaluation decisions outside of my voice or choice, and perhaps outside of valid measures or true indicators of good effort. Hence my good work and teaching skill was reduced to proctoring and simple evaluative measures, not the rich work, collaboration, research, design, and discussion that support my efforts most of the year.

Everyone has tough days in the workplace. It will never always be the way you'd like it to be. It's times like these that good teams and leaders boost one another up and work together to look for ways to empower the team, make positive change, and develop the program.

Students, as you can imagine, are feeling quite the same way. Some show this through behavior that's more jumpy and agitated than during typical learning days. Others feel bad when they can't finish a test or don't know an answer day after day as we test. Still more want to just get outside and play to put the testing behind them. I imagine that there are still some who don't mind the assessment too.

A few tests wouldn't be so bad, but twelve days of testing is too much--the systemwide math test took up to three hours (three days for three classes), the seven PARCC tests take a total of about 15 hours when you consider the prep, organization, test taking, and other procedural work. The challenging, solitary work also impacts our staffing, student support, and students' energy with regard to our typical learning routines.

And, as I've mentioned the evaluative measures that rate our hard work are challenging too. Only a few get "exemplary" in order to keep the bell curve, and typically those are teachers who work hard and also please the leaders with regard to the leaders' priorities, needs, and interests. Most achieve proficiency which translates to "You did what you were expected to do," and some struggle and receive "needs improvement" after a lengthy year of teaching and learning and a lengthy exercise of writing evaluative narratives and collecting and uploading multiple pieces of evidence to prove positive teaching/learning efforts.

I really like to work and I like to do a good job. I don't like to write about the "bad news" or challenging aspects of our work as educators. Most don't talk about this as they're afraid of the consequences, and have learned to shine the light on the positive and stay silent about what's not working well.

I write about this because I think we waste good time and effort with regard to demeaning efforts and expectations while we could use that time to build strong, student-centered, dynamic schools. There's so much good potential possible when we employ good process and build honest, transparent, collaborative teams. I yearn for this, and will continue to seek and work towards that kind of teaching/learning environment as I continue to build and develop my craft.