Friday, March 28, 2014

Feel Like A Number

I met with my Superintendent yesterday to discuss our school's PLC work, and how we are working towards our vision and goals of our Math PLC. The discussion turned to the new Teacher Evaluation Model and Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs). We were discussing how we thought teachers were handling things considering all of the unprecedented changes that have taken place in Education the last few years. I enjoyed the conversation and the give-and-take between us. Everything was going well until he said the following to me: "I thought you would love this. You are a numbers guy. I thought this would be right up your alley."

My mind began to race. I could actually feel myself starting to get warm. I was suddenly overcome with frustration. Maybe it was the proverbial "last straw" trying to deal with all of the new changes. Maybe I was letting my exhaustion get the better of me. I composed myself the best I could and replied: "I do not like these at all. What I do is so much more than a number on a scale. It is about relationships. Plain and simple. It is about relationships with the kids I teach!"

Mind you, I was very respectful, but I knew it came out a little more heated than I intended. I just firmly believe that what we do as Educators, what we really inspire, can not be measure by a number. The impact we have on the students we interact with everyday can not be summed up by the median score from a state test that arrives once a year. Make that now twice a year with PARCC! How do you measure the following?

* That I have a 7th grader that does not shut down when faced with a difficult problem like he did in September?

*That I have kids staying after school ON A FRIDAY to retake a test before the weekend begins?

*That I spent time working w/ an advanced 7th grader on multiplying binomials with radicals?

*That I had 2 8th graders inform me first thing this morning that they went home to Google the name of the race of people Christopher Columbus eradicated?

*That I had 2 different 8th graders come in with permission slips to read books I mentioned yesterday?

I understand how great numbers can be. I teach Math. I get it. Thye absolutely can be used to quantify anything. I just do not think what Educators do can be viewed this way. We work with children. Our students might be pre-schoolers or high schoolers, but they are still children. I just wish the people who crunched all of those numbers got that!

I had to laugh when I heard Bob Seger's song: "I Feel Like a Number" on the way home yesterday. Needless to say, I turned the volume way up!

I am interested to hear how you are handling the movement to dwindle what we do down to a number? I would love to hear from you!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

5 Words to Describe My Classroom

Can I sum up what happens in my room in five words? Is there a way to describe what happens when five classes pass in and out of my door everyday? Can everything I have worked on over the last 18 years be summed up in five words? With inspiration from @msssackstein and @garnet_hillman, I believe I have chosen the perfect words. It is just sad it took me all afternoon to think of them.

Challenging: I am selecting this word because I do not like the buzzword rigorous. I believe the work I ask my students to complete is right at their level everyday. I believe we handle topics that initially students think are above them, but through patience and hard work we tackle them together. I like working with them to push past what they initially did not think was possible to complete. I love seeing the proverbial "light-bulb" moment in my students.

Respectful: I work with 7th and 8th graders. Voluntarily. I really enjoy this age group. That being said, there is a high level of respect in my room. I expect that my students respect each other and themselves. I also expect that materials in my room are treated the same way. I believe my students are treated with a large amount of respect as well. I expect the same from them in return. If I had a nickel for every time I said, "You know things are done differently in here..."

Accountability: I work very hard at holding my students accountable. I hold them accountable for their actions everyday. I expect them to work as hard as possible everyday. I am always asking them to give me their 100% that day. I know some days will be better than others, but I want 100% from them. I have no problem asking this of them because I demand the same from myself. I work hard at not bringing outside things into my room. I work hard at staying in the moment while I teach. I ask my students the same in return.

Accommodating: I do not know if I like the connotation of this word. On the surface, it implies that I allow my students to walk all over me. It paints a picture of someone being taken advantage of. I prefer to use it as a way to describe the lunch times I give up so a student can retake a test or a quiz. I prefer to use it to describe how students are able to do corrections on assignments to show they understand something better. I prefer to use it to explain the various/creative ways I allow students to show me they understand a standard. In this context, I think I am 100% okay with this adjective.

Humorous: Again, I work with children. Humor and laughter are present every day in my classroom. I try to bring in laughter as much as possible to keep things light. I understand that several of my students see math as stressful, and I can not teach them until I break down that barrier. I use humor as a way to do that. I am okay with poking fun at myself because of my inability to draw if it gets my students smiling and relaxed. I have learned over the years that if they are laughing and smiling, the math is easier to learn.

Thanks again, Starr and Garnet for inspiring me to write this. I did not think what we do in my room could be summed up in five words, but I think these words paint a great picture of my classroom.

How would you describe your classroom?