On Tuesday I began my 22nd year of teaching. The fact that I have been in the classroom this long is ironic. I had a different path picked out, even though I had been encouraged to become an educator by friends and people in the profession. When I finally caved to the idea, it was because I wanted a job in my major out of college. The other driving force was the fact that I could work anywhere (I have, and that is a whole post in itself). When I started teaching, I gave myself 7 - 10 years in the classroom. After that, I saw myself in some sort of "official leadership" role. So, here I am still in the classroom, not because I couldn't move upward, but because I chose to stay. After this week, my first week of school, my heart and head know my place is in the classroom, yet according to how some of my students did on our state tests, I should not be. Okay, I am being a bit dramatic, but I was in my principal's office crying after the test scores came out. Thankfully, my principal is a very centered, understanding man who can calmly and effectively deal with his emotional female staff members. So, what happened?
- for the first time in the 9 years I had been at my school, my test scores dropped significantly (every other year, my students showed improvement).
- I had 2 Algebra 1 classes for the first time in four years and they were the ones whose scores had dropped from advanced or proficient to basic or below basic.
- Apparently teaching students how to problem-solve and think does not translate to improved test scores in mathematics
Okay, let's calm down for a second. I teach in a state that is over-obsessed with test scores. They factor into real-estate transactions!? I have to consider the following facts:
- I implemented standards based grading for the first time
- I had not taught the algebra 1 curriculum in a number of years
- I challenged myself by trying new strategies... too many to write
None of any of this matters, I am broken-hearted because I let my algebra students down.
Stop. Take a breath. Lets think about who I am as an educator.
- I am someone who does not pull out last year's lesson plans and adjusts the dates.
- I am someone who takes time to build relationships with her students.
- I am someone who even after 21 years believes in the good of my students and will work to make learning meaningful for them
I could go on and on, but as I think about my list I realize that there is a higher power at work. When I question what the heck I am still doing in the classroom, it comes down to this...
Deep down in the core of my being, I am doing what I love to do... Spending 5+ hours a day with the most incredible people - my students - and working my rear off to make learning meaningful for them.
- To believe in the good of my students and teachers I work with
- To find ways to make mathematics meaningful
- To include "Authentic Literacy" (Schmoker) and promote purposeful reading, writing, and discussions.
So, what the heck am I going to do?
- Use standards based grading to drive learning
- Use Authentic Literacy - purposeful reading, writing, and discussion as the primary learning of content and skills
- Integrate technology to support learning standards