Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Reality of Teaching

Another day, another dollar,
another kid in a shirt with a collar,

and that's about the extent of my poetic capabilities. Not true; I can occasionally compose some decent work, but not today.

No, today was another in what is becoming a long line of days that go like this:

1st block: Awesome class, kids made a lot of progress in narrative writing. It's becoming less of a tedious task and more of a creative process.
2nd block: Awesome class, kids made a lot of progress. My ELL kids are starting to realize that they really do have the vocabulary they need to write well.
Advisory: Kids handed in homework, fewer missing assignments than last week, some students earned free dress (the reward for turning in all work on time) who haven't earned it in a really long time. Yay!
After school: Talked with kids, answered questions, accepted late work, checked out books to read over the break next week, made a few copies, talked to a few teachers, packed up my stuff.
Staff meeting: Had my time wasted, had my teaching unfairly assessed and called into question (along with the rest of the staff), was shown disrespect when I attempted to contribute to a discussion in which contributions were requested, was ignored when I attempted to add to another discussion at an appropriate time, left the school almost in tears because there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

I used to love staff meetings. Yes, truly! Information was dispensed in a way that recognized that teachers are capable of reading and understanding important items without having them read out loud to them with ill-timed pauses "for contemplation" and foolish "comprehension" question. The bulk of the time was spent assessing our teaching practice, rather than having it judged by outsiders who just peek into the classroom. We read books and articles on best practices, analyzed all sorts of data, set goals and benchmarks, and planned activities that would extend our kids' understanding and application of knowledge. That's why we have a good school, with a waiting list almost as long as our roster. That's why our test scores are high. That's why our walls are covered with awards and recognitions, even though we've only been around a few years. That's why we've had to help our alumni choose high schools carefully, to avoid the schools that will be too easy. That's why our kids, not just their parents, want to be here.

Because so much of our time is wasted with triviality and disrespect, the future of our school is at risk, which means that the future of our students is even more uncertain. Right now, our students are working and learning and growing, but if we don't continue to improve our teaching practice, the kids won't have the quality instruction they need. A lack of quality means that we waste class time, which means that the kids are bored, so they're less engaged, so they don't learn as well, so they don't progress through the content to the point where they can draw conclusions and better understand reality.

Our students are, once again, at risk.

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