Scene 1: SLO (Student Learning Objectives – Part of the new Teacher Evaluation) Faculty Meeting
My team and I sit and we listen, and we try to understand.
I feel like an idiot, honestly because I don’t truly understand all the rules and percentages, and most of all, I don’t understand the why. SLO, Value Added…. I don’t know much, but know this is busy work for teachers: Select students, create objectives, fill out paperwork, assess students before and after… Our ability to show student growth will be used (how, I’m not sure) as part of the complicated matrix of our evaluation. Obviously, I already assess my students to inform my teaching. By all accounts, this won’t be difficult. The teachers who piloted it said we just follow a step by step process.
I blurt out to my team, “I don’t care if this will be easy. It’s stupid.” This is not my most eloquent reflection, but other teachers are annoyed as well and they echo my thoughts: “I don’t have time for one more thing.” “How does the state have the resources to read through our paperwork? They don’t.” I want to spend my time teaching my students, planning for my students (not to mention some time with my family).
Do I want my students to grow as the year progresses? Of course I do. Do I want to assess my students? Of course I do. I don’t want to do busy work. I don’t want to calculate percentages of instructional responsibility with my math co-teacher. My team wonders a lot. We wonder for instance how our amazing Learning Support teacher (my math co-teacher) will survive this current “Value Added Measurement” system. One of my colleagues says “She’s not. She will fail forever until they cure learning disabilities.” Her sarcasm makes her point.
My administrator and the others who shared the information with us truly did their best to explain how this will all work. Now I’d like to hear from the Department of Education about why.
While I wait for that answer, I reflect on Saturday’s learning.
Scene 2: TCRWP Saturday Reunion. . .
We rush up 4 flights of stairs, M gets to the top first (of course) and yells down “It’s full!” So we rush down to the other session we had circled on our program, “Using Media to Strengthen Students’ Critical and Close Reading.” Cornelius Minor (@MisterMinor) engages immediately, and his content resonates with us. We are immediately grateful for the closed session that made us come downstairs for this. His fast pace is perfect: He moves around the room and inspires by listening to us and showing us amazing new ideas. This is my kind of professional development – completely full of concepts, rituals and lessons that I can take back to the classroom, reminders of things I know and forget mixed with new ideas that I can’t wait to try with my students. “Play!” he tells us. “You don’t own vocabulary by writing it down. You have to play around with saying it.” I immediately tweet that. He reminds us of the importance of skill isolation. All too often we forget this and wonder why students are forgetting things they usually know as they are trying out new skills. Practice skills with media, and then you can replace the media with written text. He tells us that engagement means that kids are ready to fail and get back up to try again, that critical thinking is a ritual.
I learned so much, and I brought it back to my classroom for my kids immediately.
I don’t even need to wonder about which kind of experiences I want to spend my time with: SLOs or planning for engaging my students in close reading and critical thinking. One helps children, one pretends to help the state. When I have the chance to decide how to best spend my time, I will choose helping children. Every time.