Saturday, March 16, 2013

Because THIS is what matters...

Dear Teacher Evaluators/ Policymakers/ Politicians,

    As you seek the Holy Grail of That-Which-Constitutes-An-Effective-Teacher, it is increasingly apparent that little consensus exists among you in determining precisely what constitutes an effective teacher. Or how to compensate one for his/her efforts. You acknowledge disparate teaching for students in a high poverty status or children of color, despite seemingly common knowledge that this is not ideal. Of course, I have not seen you in my school visiting the passionate, hardworking, conscientious teachers who have voices, experiences, and thinking that beg open and honest discussion. By virtue of your position, you are far removed from our everyday classroom realities, but we invite you to listen. To understand that teaching is not about checking boxes, circling bubbles, or categorizing anyone in black or white. It's about being comfortable with change--lots of it, ambiguity, ups and downs, continual reforms, lost instructional time due to assessments, mandated irrelevance--antithetical to best practices for a number of reasons. It's also about real life. Where you can throw aside the lesson plan when it's "just not working" or one of your students has issues that need to be acknowledged and dealt with, positive or negative, because hey, they're human.
     Instead of your reforms, look at mine. Mine are borne of reflective practice, collaborative efforts, and even--gasp--response to student feedback. So, yes, 8 and 9 year olds are given a fair opportunity to help inform my efforts and my instruction. I want them to be engaged, I want them to learn, and I want them to think. I can never assume that I know how to facilitate those things in the best way for them, so I ask. I communicate with my stakeholders. After all, those efforts are what make our jobs--my teaching and their learning--more effective.
     Take a page from my playbook. If you want to help us do our jobs more effectively, then show us by asking us and including us more frequently in your conversations. Communicate with us, and yes, expect good things, because there are many. Don't invite us to serve as token teachers on your committee. Assume good intent. And remember that for us, the first two pictures in this post encapsulate the rewards that matter most. The last picture embodies what we feel you want from us.
      In review, let's take a one-question test:
Which of these three pictures, if I was teaching your child, would YOU consider proof of my effectiveness?

The two images at the top of the post are Images 67/ 68 of 365 Days of Awesome. The bottom picture here failed to make the grade.  

1 comment:

  1. If war (as some unknown person wrote) is too important to leave just to the Generals, then Education is too important to leave to those in the 'Command Posts' setting strategy that doesn't fit the reality of the 'front lines'. More of this kind of perspective from those 'in the trenches' is needed and more attention given by the 'policy makers'
    If my grand-children were in this area, I would want them in your class !